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About a month after I first got to Japan, one of my Chinese classmates asked me if I knew what bakari meant.

Ya, I said, it means ‘dake’ right? (dake = ‘only’)

No!  Idiot… is pretty much what she said.  Maybe I’m missing something, because though you can’t always use them in the same way, if ‘dake’ means only, then I still think ‘bakari’ and ‘dake’ are pretty similar.  Still, just to keep them separate in my mind, I remember bakari as meaning ‘just.’

 

As in, I just barely got to Japan, so back(ari) up and give me a second before you call me an idiot, please, ya?

With this understanding of bakari meaning ‘just,’ in the sense of ‘only,’ it makes sense that a sentence like:

  • 日本語の勉強を始めたばかりだから、まだ上手じゃない。
    Nihongo no benkyou wo hajimeta bakari da kara, mada jouzu ja nai.
    (Since I just started studying Japanese, I’m still not good at it.)

In this case, ‘just started’ = 始めたばかり (literally, “started + just”).  Which, to me, seems pretty similar to English.

The sense of this grammar function is that there has been barely any time for anything to happen since whatever action is mentioned in the plain past form (ta) form.  That’s why it works so well when followed with da kara.  So, you could say stuff like…

  • 運動したばかりだから、疲れた。
    Undou shita bakari da kara, tsukareta.
    (Since I just exercised, I’m tired.)
  • 彼女に会ったばかりだから、好きかどうかまだ分からない。
    Kanojo ni atta bakari da kara, suki ka dou ka mada wakaranai.
    (Since I just met her, I don’t know if I like her yet.)

But it can also be used without da kara, though it still tends to carry the sense of ‘since such and such… blah blah blah.’

  • 新しい学校に行ったばかりのころ、友達がいなくて困りました。
    Atarashii gakkou ni itta bakari no koro, tomodachi ga inakute komarimashita.
    (When I went to the new school, it was hard for me not having any friends.)

Notice here the connotation that having no friends being connected to having just gotten to a new school.  This subjective nature of ta form + bakari is what sets it apart from the similar, but slightly different ta form + tokoro da.

So, maybe next time you’re trying to express in Japanese that since X just happened a second ago, something-something Y… use ta form + bakari!

As always, comment if I made some stupid mistakes!

Good luck with your studies, everyone.

Keep swimming!

Niko

p.s. Here’s my free course, bundled with awesomeness (and love):

Niko

Yo! I'm Niko, the founder of NihongoShark. I'm also a Japanese translator, writer, and all-around language nerd.

I created this site to help as many people master Japanese (any language, really) as possible.

Uh, what else? Well... I live in Tokyo, Bangkok, Sapporo, Saigon, San Diego, Tokyo, Chiang Mai, Portland, Oregon! So if anyone wants to meet up for a refreshing nama beer, I'm probably down for that. Or a coffee. Learning Japanese is tricky-tikki-tavi. But we're in this together. ファイト!

Good luck with your studies!

Niko

p.s. If you like my articles, you may very well love my daily lessons.