Quantity: Describing Less + Only

There are certain times when we have clearly thought less is always more. Perhaps, less spicy food might have had save you from your early morning rendezvous with the toilet or less problems are always better. 

This time, we will be looking over words that describe less and as an added bonus, how to use the word ‘only’.



अलिकति (alikati) has a meaning of ’Slightly’ or ’A little/ bit’. Most people put an emphasis or a stress on the ’li’ part, so you are saying you want something very less. Addition of ’le’ causes ‘alikati’ to carry of meaning of ’by a little’.

So, you can use it in sentences to mean ’slightly’, such as:

अलिकति सरिदिनु नि (alikati saridinu ni)

= Move slightly, please.

रातभरिमा ग्रहहरु अलिकतिले हल्लिएको छ (raatbhari`ma graha`haru alikati`le hallieko cha)

= Throughout the night the planets have moved slightly.


Or you can use it to mean ‘a little/ bit’.

अलिकतिले छुँदैन (alikati`le chudaina)

= Doesn’t touch by a bit.

यहाँ अलिकतिले रङ पुगेन (yaha alikati`le rang pugena)

= Not enough paint here by a bit.

अलिकति भात हाल्दिनु नि (alikati bhaat haaldinu ni)

= Keep a little rice, please.



कम्ती (kamti) has a meaning of ’less’. Kamti has other multiple uses as well.

तिमीले दिएको मिठाई कम्ती भयो (timi le dieko mithai kamti bhayo)

= The sweets you gave is less. (lit. The sweets you gave happens (to be) less)

कम्ती नै धेरै हो (kamti nai dherai ho)

Less IS more.


It also has other uses, such as showing emphasis (functions as an adverb). This is very weird to some, because such sentences have a negative verb and usually, kamti must means ’less’! However, the final meaning would give something very positive!

For example, take this sentence:

यो मिठाई मीठो थिएन (yo mithai mitho thiena)

= This sweet was not delicious.

However, if we add ‘कम्ती’ before ’mitho’ then:

यो मिठाई कम्ती मीठो थिएन (mithai kamti mitho thiena)

= This sweet was very delicious!


This is because, when there are double negatives, it becomes a positive in Nepali (just like in English). In the second sentence, we are literally saying ’This sweet is not less delicious’ which can be rewritten as ’This sweet is very delicious’. Why is that ‘very’ needed? That is because we stress (give more emphasis) on ’kamti’ and since an emphasis is added, we need to write that ’very’ so the meaning in both languages remain the same. 

You can also use कम्ता (kamta) as an alternate spelling to the above use.


हामी कम्ती धेरै हिँडिएन! (hami kamti dherai hidiena)

= We walked very much. (lit. We didn’t walk less more) 

*note* I have heard of people using a positive verb when ‘dherai’ comes after ‘kamti’. Either way is correct.



कम  (kam) has a meaning of ‘Less’. 

म जहिल्यै कम खान्छु (ma jahilyai kam khaanchu)

= I always eat less.

उसको कम साथीहरु छन् (usko kam sathi`haru chan)

= He has less friends.



The word अलिक (alik) has a meaning of ‘A little’. It’s use is a bit different from AlikatiAlik is an adjective whereas alikati is an adverb. Hence, Alik must always precede the thing you are trying to describe whereas alikati usually precedes the verb.

Under usual circumstances, alik behaves more of an auxiliary, so it needs quantity-denoting word after it. These words are ’thorai’ and ’dherai’. (less and more respectively) When we add ’thorai’ after ’alik’ then it gives a meaning of ‘A little less’ and when we add ’dherai’ after ’alik’, we get ‘A little more’. However in most cases, the context is enough to dismiss these words.


अलिक थोरै भात हालिदिनु है (alik thorai bhat halidinu hai)

= Keep a little bit less rice okay.

अलिक धेरै भात हालिदिनु है (alik dherai bhat halidinu hai)

= Keep a little bit more rice okay.


One of the places where quantity-denoting words are not required is when you have a negative verb in the sentence. This is because they are not necessary.

यो लुगा अलिक सुकेन (yo luga alik sukena)

= This cloth didn’t dry slightly.

यो रङ अलिक भएन (yo rang alik bhaena)

= This colour isn’t right slightly. (literally This colour didn’t happen slightly)


The other place is when you decide to treat is as a contraction of ‘अलिकति’ (alikati), usually to declare a condition:

म अलिक मातेँ (ma alik mate)

= I am a bit intoxicated. 

हामी अलिक ढिलो हुन्छौँ  (hami alik dhilo hunchau)

= We will be slightly late.


Alik also has a function of the adjectival form of ‘Slightly/a little’. This ‘alik’ usually precedes an adjective or an adverb and is usually used to compare (hence a comparative version of the adjective is used):

ऊ अलिक नराम्रो छ (alik naramro cha)

= He is slightly bad(der).

ऊ भन्दा म अलिक सानो छु  (u bhanda ma alik sano chu)

= Compared to him, I am slightly small(er).

हामी अलिक अर्कै छौँ (hami alik arkai chau)

= We’re a little different.



मात्र (matra) is the Nepali version of ’Only’.


For example:

यो मेरो मात्र हो (yo mero matra ho)

= This is only mine.

म बिरामी हुँदा ऊ मात्र आयो (ma birami huda u matra aayo)

= When I was sick only he came.

म सेवा गर्न मात्र चाहन्छु (ma sewa garna matra chaahanchu)

= I wish only to serve. 

यो काममा उसको मात्र हक लाग्छ (yo kam`ma usko matra hak laagcha)

Only he has the authority on this work.


Since it is an adverb hence cannot be used directly as an adjective (for example, in the sentence ’The only person in the world’). We need to reword the sentence slightly if we were to send the same meaning. For example, ‘the only person in the world’ would be:

संसारको एक मात्र मान्छे (sansar`ko ek matra manche)

= The world’s only one person. (literal)


Let’s play a game. Place ’only’ between any two words of this sentence:

She told me that she eats potatoes.

So we get eight sentences:

Only he told me that he eats potatoes.

He only told me that he eats potatoes.

He told only me that he eats potatoes.

He told me only that he eats potatoes.

He told me that only he eats potatoes.

He told me that he only eats potatoes.

He told me that he eats only potatoes.

He told me that he eats potatoes only.

Now this creates a problem. How do we use ‘matra’ then?

Remember that ’matra‘ succeeds the word it is modifying. So, only potatoes would be written as potatoes only in Nepali (an example)


There are some sentences that are identical meanings:

He told me that he eats only potatoes. & He told me that he only eats potatoes. & He told me that he eats potatoes only.

He told me only that he eats potatoes. & He told only me that he eats potatoes & He only told me that he eats potatoes.

So, let’s eliminate these sentences. 

Now, we are left with these sentences. Let’s translate it:


Only he told me that he eats potatoes.

= उसले मात्र मलाई भन्यो कि ऊ आलु खान्छ (usle matra malai bhanyo ki u aalu khancha) 


He told only me that he eats potatoes.

= उसले मलाई मात्र भन्यो कि ऊ आलु खान्छ  (usle malai matra bhanyo ki u aalu khancha) 


He told me that only he eats potatoes.

= उसले मलाई भन्यो कि ऊ मात्र आलु खान्छ  (usle malai bhanyo ki u matra aalu khancha) 


He told me that he eats only potatoes.

= उसले मलाई भन्यो कि ऊ आलु मात्र खान्छ  (usle malai bhanyo ki u aalu matra khancha


As you can see, if in English we write ‘Only X’ then in Nepali, we write ‘X only’ (matra)


The emphatic version of ’matra’ is matrai (मात्रै). This gives more emphasis hence is somewhat prefered more if you are trying to give a point:

हामीलाई मात्रै बोलाएछ (hami`lai matrai bolaaecha

= He called only us.




1. कम खानु राम्रो हो 

2. मेरो पेट अलिकति दुख्यो 

3. ऊ अलिक सानो छ 

4. राम भन्दा श्याम अलिक बुद्धिमानी छ 

5. त्यो पानी कम्ता तातो थिएन  

6. जनावरहरुमध्ये माछाहरु मात्रै पानीमा बस्छन्  



1. यो तस्बिर _____ ठीक छैन (अलिक, कम्ती)    /yo tashbir ___ thik chaina/

2. मेरो भाईले _____ धेरै भात खाँदैन (कम्ती, अलिकती)      /mero bhai`le ___ dherai bhat khaadaina/

3. रक्सी _____ मात्र हालिदेऊ (अलिकती, मात्र)        /raksi ____ matra haalideu/


ANSWERS (for illustrative purposes only)

A. 1. To eat less is good. (kam khanu ramro ho)

A. 2. My stomach is hurting a little. (mero pet alikati dukhyo)

A. 3. He is a bit small. (u alik sano cha)

A. 4. Shyam is a bit (more) intelligent than Ram. (ram bhanda shyam alik buddhimani cha)

A. 5. That water is very hot! (tyo pani kamta tato thiena)

A. 6. Amongst the animals only fishes live in water. (janawar`haru`madhye macha`haru matrai pani`ma baschan*

B. 1. अलिक; This picture is not quite right

B. 2. कम्ती; My brother eats a lot of rice!

B. 3. अलिकति; Keep only a little alcohol


*Disclaimer: For illustrative use only. I know fishes are not the only things that live in water.