466 - ただ~のみ

JLPT N1: ただ~のみ

Ways of saying "only" in Japanese confuse me a lot. For example, years ago I wrote an article about the confusing difference between ただ and だけ, both of which can translate to "only" in English.

Alas, there are even more ways to say "only," and のみ is one of them.

Specifically, we're looking at how...

ただ pairs up with のみ in stiff, formal language to mean something like "the only thing that."

An example:

妻に先立たれ、唯一の生きがいはただのみとなった。
つま に さきだたれ、 ゆいいつ の いきがい は ただ まご のみ となった。
After my wife passed away, the only thing I had left to live for was my grandchildren.
Literally: “wife + に + had die before (me), + only / unique + の + something one lives for + は + just + grandchild + only + と + became.”

Well, that's a depressing example sentence. But it illustrates our grammar point well.

The word or phrase appearing between ただ and のみ is the thing that is being emphasized by our "only" construction.

It's a noun, 孫 (まご // grandchild), in the above example, but it can also be a verb, or even a short phrase:

やれることは全てやりました。あとはただ本人の生命力を信じるのみです。
やれる こと は すべて やりました。 あと は ただ ほんにん の せいめいりょく を しんじる のみ です。
We’ve done everything we can. All that’s left now is to believe in his [her] will to live.
Literally: “can do + thing (=こと) + は + all + did. + after / remainder + は + just + the person himself + の + vitality / life force + を + believe + only + です.”

The important thing is that the word or phrase appearing between ただ and のみ must be in the plain form (i.e. don't use です or any verbs ending in ~ます).

Other than that, I think this grammar point is pretty straightforward... if the N1 is appropriate study material for your current level of Japanese, that is.

The sentences we are looking at here might seem quite difficult, but once you've gotten through all the grammar in N5~N2, reading through sentences like these should be a breeze.

成功に近道はない。ただ努力し続けるのみだ。
せいこう に ちかみち は ない。 ただ どりょく し つづける のみ だ。
There is no shortcut to success. One must simply continue to work hard.
Literally: “success + に + shortcut + は + there is not. + just + effort / exertion + continue doing + only + だ.”

ただ背が高いのみではモデルにはなれない。
ただ せ が たかい のみ で は モデル に は なれない。
You cannot become a model just by being tall.
Literally: “just + tall (=height + が + high) + only + では + model + には + cannot become.”

If these sentences feel overwhelming, remember to just take things one word at a time. That's what the literal breakdowns are for. ^^

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