Japanese Grammar

How to Express Limitation: 限る, にかけては, ならでは, and ともかく


Last time, you learned topic-related expressions, e.g. “アイヌというのは北海道ほっかいどういちはなされていることのことだ (Ainu languages is a language spoken in part of Hokkaido),” and “北海道ほっかいどうといえば、わたしなんったことがある (As for Hokkaido, I have been there some times).” Then, if you would like to say, “Ainu languages is a language spoken in only part of Hokkaido,” how should you say it? In this lesson, you will learn how to express limitation.

Explanation for How to Express Limitation in Japanese

Table of Contents
The Wide Usage of かぎ
Other Expressions for Limitation

You already know the word だけ to indicate limitation. だけ is certainly a powerful word and is used in various situations. In fact, the sentence: “Ainu languages is a language spoken in only part of Hokkaido“ can be expressed by だけ like this “アイヌというのは北海道ほっかいどういちだけはなされていることのことだ.” However, there are some types of limitation that だけ cannot express.

The Wide Usage of かぎ

かぎる literally means “to limit” and “to restrict.” You can utilize this verb for various expressions. The one that we introduced in the partial negation lesson is one of the utilization, e.g. “アイヌはなされているのは北海道ほっかいどうだけとはかぎらない (It’s not necessarily that Ainu language is spoken in only Hokkaido).” The conjugation is the key.

The Plain Form かぎる: To Indicate “Restricted” and “Only”

申請書しんせいしょていしゅつほんに(かぎ / かぎります)。
Submission of the application is restricted to Japanese.
新製品しんせいひん発売はつばい15じゅうごにちに(かぎ / かぎります)。
The sale of the new product is [held] only on the 15th.

The basic function is to express restriction of something. The target of restrictions is expressed by に. This sounds a little formal. Then, here is a different function. 限る can also express the best thing in a certain topic like “As for X, Y is better than anything.” By contrast, this is mainly used in conversation and sound casual.

なつはビールに(かぎ / かぎります)。
In summer, beer is better than anything.
音楽おんがくはライブに(かぎ / かぎります)。
As for music, live is better than anything.

The Te-form …にかぎって

に限って has two functions. The first is to express that something inconvenient happens particularly when you had hoped nothing would happen. This is generally used with time expressions in both writing and conversation. In this case, it may not be strictly limited to occurring in only that time/situation.

にちようかぎって、いつもあめが(る / ります)。
It always rains, particularly on Sundays.
旅行りょこうちゅうかぎってごとでんがたくさん(ある / あります)。
There are many business calls, particularly during travels.

The second is to express something like “You wouldn’t expect X to do/be Y” or “X would be the last person to do Y.” In general, に限って works as a subject marker and is used with the negative form. Be careful. This may sound like a strong statement.

なかさんかぎってまりは(やぶらない / やぶりません)。
As for rules, Tanaka-san would be the last person to break [it].
スポーツ選手せんしゅかぎって体力たいりょくがないことは(ない / ありません)。
Athletes would be the last people you’d expect to not have physical strength.

Some people utilize the second function for emphasizing and pointing out bad activities. This may grammatically be not correct, but used to express irony.

せいかぎってわるいことを(する / します)。
It’s the politicians who do bad things (rather than X).

The Conjunctive Form …にかぎり: Certain Rules Apply to a Restricted Group

Only people who are over 18 years old can enter.
As for the price, it’s only free for students.

に限り is a formal way of expressing that authorized people apply certain rules to a restricted group of people. The sentence structure is a little tricky. If you are confused by the structure, you can reword them as follows:


In this context, you can replace に限り with に限って or だけ and make your speech less formal.

18じゅうはっさいじょうひとかぎって・だけ 入場にゅうじょうすることができます。

Don’t be confused with the noun form of 限る. The 限り in the following example works as a noun and that’s different from the function of the conjunctive form.

As for iPhones, there is a limit on the stocks.
Since there is a limit on our budget, [we] cannot buy everything.


Negative Conjunctive Form …にかぎらず: To Negate/Soften Limitation

としかぎらず若者わかものがんになることが(ある / あります)。
There is a case where not only the elderly but also the young get cancer.
As for cigarettes, [I] want [the government] to ban [them] regardless of the place.

に限らず works to negate or soften limitation. With the first example, the new range is mentioned, i.e. from the elderly to the young. However, making ranges unlimited is also common, as in the second example.

Supplementary Subordinate Clauses …をかぎりに: Time Limit

3月末さんがつまつかぎりに引退いんたい(する / します)。
[I] will retire by the end of March.
今日きょうかぎりに退たいしょく(する / します)。
[I] will resign by the end of today.

を限りに is used with time expressions and indicate time limit. You can grammatically consider the を限りに part as a subordinate clause. In this context, を限りに is often interchangeable for で and をもって.

3月末さんがつまつ引退いんたい(する / します)。
今日きょうをもって退たいしょく(する / します)。

Other Expressions for Limitation

There are still other expressions which are not interchangeable with だけ and 限る. They express “ranges” rather than “limitation.” For the sake of completion, we would like to cover all of them here.

…にかけては: Prominence in a Certain Field

学力がくりょくにかけてはだれにもけ(ない / ません)。
When it comes to language skills, [I] am second to none.
When it comes to pronunciation, I’m the best.

The function is to indicate prominence in a field specified by にかけては. In terms of the sentence structure, you may consider the にかけては part as a kind of topic marker.

…ならでは(の): Specialty

なまさかなべるのはほんならでは(だ / です)。
Eating raw fish is a specialty of Japan.
カレーをべるのはインドならでは(だ / です)。
Eating curry by hand is unique to India.

ならでは is used with だ/です and indicates specialty or uniqueness like “something you can experience only in that place” or “something that only X can do.” This can be also used with の to modify nouns as follows:

それはナポレオンならではのたたかかた(だった / でした)。
That’s a style of fighting that only Napoleon could do.
[I] want to eat special meals that [I] can only get in Japan.

…(は / なら)ともかく: Exclusion

なかはともかくほかひときょせ(ない / ません)。
[I] cannot give permission to anyone apart from Tanaka.
[You] should be able to write hiragana apart from kanji.
ねつがあるならともかく風邪かぜごとやすめ(ない / ません)。
[I] cannot be absent from work due to cold unless [I] have fever.
ごとができないならともかく、どうして井上いのうえさんをクビにした(の / んですか)?
Why did [you] fire Inoue-san if it’s not the case that [he/she] is incapable?

(は / なら)ともかく expresses the exclusion of something from consideration. は and なら are interchangeable. However, なら is the one used in conditionals, so なら can be connected to any part of speech and implies a hypothetical condition. That is to say, with the third example, he/she doesn’t have fever in reality. With the fourth example, Inoue-san is not incapable in reality.


  1. Each form of かぎる expresses limitation with different nuances;
    • かぎる expresses restriction of something.
    • かぎって expresses that something inconvenient happens particularly when you had hoped nothing would happen.
    • かぎって also expresses “You wouldn’t expect X to do/be Y” or  “X would be the last person to do Y.”
    • かぎり expresses that authorized people apply certain rules to a restricted group of people.
    • かぎらず works to negate or soften limitation.
    • かぎりに is used with time expressions and indicates a time limit.
  1.      …にかけては expresses prominence in a certain field.
  2.      ならでは(の) indicates specialty or uniqueness.
  3.      (は / なら)ともかく expresses the exclusion of something from consideration.

限る can mean various things depending on the form, but don’t worry, this is kind of an unusual verb. Japanese verbs generally don’t have multiple meanings like 限る. Now, you know how to express limitation in various ways. Next, you will learn the opposite concept: how to express addition.

Recommended Links

Would You Like to Have a Native Tutor Guide You?

Since we are providing online lessons, you can learn Japanese with native speakers and our well-designed curriculum from anywhere in the world. Our lessons are;

  • -One on one lessons for 50 minutes once a week

  • -JPY7,560 (About USD 66 or EUR 63 -22th Nov 2016) per month

  • -Continuous support from the same tutor

  • -Regular lesson time selected by users

We can be sure that your Japanese will enhance further. Please join in Wasabi today via the following.

How to Enroll