The Conditionals

第121課: Conditionals I: The Particles と, なら(ば), たら, & ば

Creating an “if” statement in Japanese is not easy. This lesson will showcase to you three of the most common grammar points in Japanese to make conditional phrases. By no means, though, does this mean you will be able to master them completely by reading this lesson. The differences between these patterns are highly contextual, and it will still take a lot of practice to get the hang of them. So, by all means, please take your time as you read through this lesson. 

The Conjunctive Particle と

     The conjunctive と can be described as being in the part of the construction of the following constructs. For all of these constructs, the particle follows the non-past tense of a verb. 

  1. When X happens, Y will happen. For example, “when you turn, there will be a bank”.
  2. When X happens, Y happens. For example, “when I opened the door, snow came in”.
  3. When/if…, then…   (Certain)

     So, “when X happens, Y happens”. Y is predictable or an unavoidable fact. This is not an “if” statement. Even when it is translated with the word “if”, Y is still something that is certain. So, this means that this pattern is not correct for requests, judgments, etc. These sorts of things don’t have a 100% degree of certainty, and they can be easily refuted.


1. 四月になると、さくらく。
    When it becomes April, cherry blossoms will blossom.

2. 先生だと、きっと年上としうえなんじゃないですか。
    If he’s a teacher, surely he has to be older, right?

    When I went to the hospital, Mr. Fujiwara was there.

4. 今かけないとおくれるよ。
    If you don’t depart now, you’ll be late.

5. まどけると、えます。
    When you open the window, you can see cows.

6. 日のぼると、るくなります。
    When the sun rises, it becomes bright. 

7. 日しずむと、くなります。
    When the sun sets, it becomes dark.

8. 昆布こんぶや何かで出汁だしるといい。
    It would be good to gather soup stock withkombu or something. 

9. 3に2をすと、5になります。
     When we add 2 to 3, we get 5.

10. 雪めると、動物どうぶつたちは冬眠とうみんめる。
      When it begins to snow, the animals begin hibernation.

11. ワカメやヒジキを食べると髪が生える。
    Your hair grows when you eat wakame and hijiki.

Word Note: ワカメ and ヒジキ are different kinds of edible seaweed.  

12. ♪さかなさかなさかな~魚を食べると~♪あたまあたまあたま~頭がよくなる~♪
Fish, fish, fish, when you eat fish, your brain gets smart, your brain gets smart, your brain gets smart.

Practice (1): Translate the following. You may use a dictionary.

1. If you warm ice, it melts. 
2. 部屋に入るとカーテンをけた。
3. ボーイフレンドと京都に行きました。
4. ドアを開けると、犬がいた。まどを開けると、鳥がいた。そして、ゴミばこを開けると、ねずみがいた。

 Other Usages

      These usages are really just extensions of above, but we’ll look at them later.

~ようと → Lesson 80  といい → Lesson 95     ~ずと → Lesson 133

Practice (8): Translate the following. You may use a dictionary.

1. If you warm ice, it melts. 
2. 部屋へやるとカーテンをけた。
3. ボーイフレンドと京都きました。
4. ドアをけると、がいた。まどけると、がいた。そして、ゴミばこけると、ねずみがいた。

The Conjunctive Particle なら(ば)

なら may show advice. It can show things that would be realistic if something were to ever be the case. なら is called the contextual conditional because it is equivalent to “if you are talking about…, then…“. Overall, なら(ば) is used to give suggestions, speculation, or requests

13. 中国くなら、万里ばんり長城ちょうじょうてください。
      If you are going to China, please see the Great Wall.

14. カメラをいたいなら、秋葉原にったがいいです。
      If you want to buy a camera, it’s best to go to Akihabara.

15. 郵便局ゆうびんきょくくなら、60切手きってを5ってきてください。
      If you are going to the post office, please buy five 60 yen stamps.

16. いいえ、れましたが、自由席じゆうせきならあります。
      No, they are sold out, but we have unreserved seats.

17. どうしてもというなら仕方しかたがない。
      If you must, you have no choice.

18. それなら話は早い。  
      That makes it easy.  

19. 仕事えたのなら、かえっていいよ。
      You may leave provided/providing that you finished your work.

20. 知っているんなら、えてください。
      Providing that you know, please tell me.

Grammar Note: なら expresses the speaker’s supposition or defines the basis of the statement. There is no required temporal ordering of the two situations presented. So, it can’t be used to show a consequence in the past or condition for the future. 

Nuance Note: のなら is stronger and enforces a confirmation of the content of the condition.

Usage Note: なら can also be used as a conjunction at the front of a sentence in broken down speech for それなら.

Practice (2): Translate the following.  

1. 韓国かんこくくなら(ば)、飛行機ひこうきがよいです。
2. みながくなら、きます。
3. 電車がないなら、くまでだ。
4. 大阪おおさかくなら、新幹線しんかんせんがいいですよ。
5. その話なら何度なんども聞いているよ。

The Conjunctive Particle たら

1. Shows an unrealized event being hypothesized, not completely certain. It’s often preceded by もし. In a temporal condition, the next action is to happen after the action with たら. So, something happens once certain conditions are met

21. 会議かいぎが終わったら、電話でんわしますね。
      I’ll call you once the meeting ends, OK?

22. 金持かねもちになったら、しろう!
      If I were rich, I’d so buy a castle!

23. もしらなかったら、きましょう。
       If it doesn’t rain, let’s go.

24. 雨が(り)やんだら、どこかにくとめた。
      After it finished raining, we decided to go somewhere.

25. 日本けたらいいなあ。
      It would be nice if I could go to Japan. 

26. もし地球ちきゅう引力いんりょくがなかったら、空中くうちゅういているでしょう。
      If there wasn’t gravity on earth, you would probably be floating in the air.

27. 地震じしんおさまったら、しい情報じょうほういてください。
      Once an earthquake subsides, get accurate information. 

2. When you do X, Y happens. The latter part is typically unexpected.

28. ドアを開けたら、加藤かとうさんがっていました。 
      When I opened the door, Mr. Kato was standing there.

29. 本んであげたら、よろこびました。
      When I read the book for my younger brother, he was very happy.

30. 休んだら、元気になった。
      When I rested, I got better.

31. 銀行ったら、友人ゆうじんいました。
      When I went to the bank, I saw a friend.

3. Shows an obvious conditional. This is a generic condition. This means that something is almost always followed by some situation. This “almost always” diction suggests that it is not as certain as と.

32. この会社かいしゃ社員しゃいんだったら、あの大学だいがく割引わりびきがもらえる。
      If you are an employee of this company, you can get a discount at that college.

33. 人ころしたら、死刑しけいになります。
      If you kill a person, you’ll get the death penalty.

34. 風邪かぜいたら、くしゃみがます。
      If we catch a cold, we sneeze.

4. (の)だったら emphasizes a topic because of the condition of someone else. 

35. やりたくないんだったらやめてくれ。(Vulgar)
      If you don’t want to do it, stop!

36. おさんだったら部屋にいるよ。
      If you’re talking about dad, he’s in the room.

たら may be たらば in formal situations. In hypothetical situations, もし(も) is almost always added. Unlike と or なら, たら may be in a hypothetical yet unrealistic gesture. It’s also the most common conditional because of its wide usageHowever, it’s often avoided in formal writing.

The Adverb もし

      We saw that in the first usage of たら, もし was always present. もし is related to hypothetical events. If you looked in a Japanese dictionary, you would find a definition similar to the following.

37. ある事態じたい仮定かていしてべることをあらわす。
      It shows an event of hypothesizing and stating a certain condition. 

     When a clause with たら is used to show a hypothetical condition–where it may or may not happen–it is usually used with もし. もし is also used with counter-factual hypothetical statements where the event is extremely unrealistic. Even here, もし simply adds more uncertainty.

38. 毎日すしべられたら、せでしょう。
      If I could eat sushi every day, I would be very happy.

39. もしればにいます。
      If it rains tomorrow, I will stay at home.

40. もしがあなただったらすこしつでしょう。
      If I were you, I’d wait a while. 

41. もし立場たちばだったら、どうしますか?
      Suppose you were in my place, what would you do?

The Conjunctive Particle ば

ば creates the provisional conditional form with the 已然形いぜんけい. Never confuse this with the potential forms of verbs. There is a difference between えば and えれば. The first is ば with the basic form of the verb, and the second is ば with the potential form of the verb. The chart below shows how to conjugate with the 已然形. You are now responsible to know what this base is. 

 形容詞 形容動詞 一段 五段 する 来る である だ
 新しけれ 簡単であれ 食べ 歌 す 来(く) であれ ならば

  ば shows that the previous stated condition’s establishment is the condition for the latter stated condition to occur. The subjects of both clauses should not show volition. So, although the subject may be the same in both clauses, the resultant outcome should be natural in such instance. 

This particle is perfect for showing desired result, so it would sound unnatural if the latter clause had some negative/undesired result specifically stated. This, then, does not mean “negative words” used in making suggestions/commands are then ungrammatical because you are soliciting a desired outcome.  

ば may also show the cue for a latter stated recognition or judgment. 

42. ほかに意見がなければ、これでわりましょう。
      If you don’t have any other opinions, let’s end here.

43. まあ、無理むり{なら・であれば}、月曜日までにしてください。 
       Well, if it’s impossibility, turn it in by Monday.  

Like たら, it can show generic, temporal, and hypothetical conditions, but it’s more forceful and places emphasis on the future aspect. The main clause shouldn’t suggest with an action in the following manner. 

44. 京都へ来たら、ぜひ連絡してください。〇 京都へ来れば、ぜひ連絡してください。X
      Once you come to Kyoto, please contact me.   

   The suggestion is to do something once the condition of reaching Kyoto is met. Both conditionals can be followed by expressions reflecting the will of the speaker, but phrases with ば tend to be stronger and directed more specifically on something. 

45. せば、ひらきます。
      It will open once you push it.

46. 冬になれば、る。
       When it becomes winter, snow will fall.

Grammar Note: たら has a sequence requirement, but this “once” nuance of ば focuses on the conditional as the instigator for the latter to occur. So, it is stronger.  

47. 都合がよければ、一緒いっしょ大阪きませんか。
      How about going to Osaka together if it’s convenient with you?

48. 自信じしんがあればなか成功せいこうしたも同然どうぜんだ。(Proverb)
      Confidence is half the battle.

49. 見上げれば、ほしちゅうをうねり、やみおおっている。
      If you look up, the stars are projected in the air, and the dark is spreading.

50. あれだけ勉強すれば、合格ごうかくするのも当然とうぜんです。
      If you’ll study to that extent, passing is only natural.

51. 酒めば、タバコもう。
      If you drink sake, you also smoke.

52. 歌手かしゅになりたいのであれば、楽器がっきかたならったほうがよいのです。
If it is the case that you wish to become a singer, it is best that you also learn how to play an instrument. 

Pronunciation Note: Do not pronounce 楽器 as がき because 餓鬼 = brat. So, be careful. 

Practice (3): Translate the following.

1. ければ、わないがいいですよ。
2. 僕の家に来ればどう?
3. 犬と話せれば、楽しいでしょう。
4. 勉強すれば、Aがもらえますよ。
5. 安ければ、買った方がいいと思います。

Proverb Note一犬虚いっけんきょゆれば万犬実ばんけんじつう。This proverb means that “if a single dog barks a lie, ten thousand dogs will then speak it as the truth”. This is meant to show that once a rumor spreads, it will eventually be taken as the truth. 吠ゆれば is the Classical Japanese form 吠えれば, and in proverbs such as this, old forms of grammar are common. 

Slang Note: ~ば may be turned into ~や in slang. Generally, this is seen when れ precedes ば, and then the combination becomes りゃ. For instance, どうすりゃいいの? However, you can still say things like どう言いやいいんだよ. Of course, this would be very casual and slang and is rather 乱暴.  


Practice (1):

1. 氷をあたためると、ける。
2. When I entered the room, I opened the curtains.
3. I went to Kyoto with my boyfriend.
4. When I opened the door, there was a dog. When I opened the window, there was a bird. And, when I opened the trash can, there was a rat.

Practice (2):

1. If you are going to Korea, it is best to go by plane.
2. If everyone’s going, I’ll go too.
3. If there’s not a train, you just got to walk.
4. If you are going to Osaka, the bullet train is good.
5. If it’s that you’re talking about, I’ve heard it numerous times.

Practice (3):

1. It’s best not to buy it if it’s expensive.
2. How about coming to my house?
3. It would probably be fun if you could take to dogs.
4. You’ll be able to receive an A if you study.
5. If it’s cheap, I think that it’s best to buy it.