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 Mastering the Art of IF

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Onikyoushi
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Join date : 2014-06-04
Age : 46
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PostSubject: Mastering the Art of IF   Wed Jun 29, 2016 11:32 am

There are a myriad of ways to express 'if' in Japanese. I will start my mini lecture by sharing a bit of the lyrics to one of my songs.


Title: Nara-Tara-TO-MO-Eba

Use MO to give and ask permission,
Use TO for Cause and Effect
Also use TO for giving directions,
There’s really not that much to it.

Use Nara like a subject marker
To address a thing or situation
Use Tara to speak hypothetically
As if the first thing is already done.

Eba is the basic IF with no strings attached.
It also works for adjectives,
Now what do you think of that!

(End of lyrics)


In the past tense -tara is a 'when'. It is also used for a hypothetical 'if', as in "If I were rich..." In addition, it is also just a very handy version of 'if' -- probably the go-to version in most spoken conversation.

But take a look at how the meaning of a sentence can change when a different version of 'if' is used:
1. 日本 ついたら、でんわ して ください。 (Please call after having arrived in Japan.)
2. 日本 けば、でんわ して ください。 (Please call if you arrive in Japan.)

While -tara is often translated as an 'if', it basically presupposes the successful completion of the first action. The -eba conditional, however, would likely give the impression of being replete with doubt concerning the chances of the individual being spoken to actually completing the trip.

There's a lot more to be said about IF, if I only had the time. In fact, the Japanese often create conditionals where English speakers would not. If you want to sound more like a native Japanese, you have to learn to be iffy.


Check out the following two websites and read all about the Conditionals (different versions of "if" like '-tara' and '-eba'). I found these very helpful when I was attempting to explain the differences to my 3rd and 4th-years students.
1. http://www.guidetojapanese.org/learn/grammar/conditionals
2. http://kimallen.sheepdogdesign.net/Japanese/ifwhen.html
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