Japanese Conditional Form -
Part 4. ~たら (~tara) Sentence -
Intermediate Lessons: 27

In this lesson, you'll get to learn the last Japanese conditional form - たら (tara) sentence.

As you've already learned in the past few lessons, there're many restrictions to use と (to) sentence. There're also many regulations which you need to fulfill for ば (ba) / なら (nara) sentence if you want to express your will, hope, judgement, permission, prohibition, order, invitation or request, etc.

If you want to state these expressions which involve your intentional actions in the conditional form, you need to use たら (tara) sentence.

So let's check out the sentence patterns of たら (tara) sentence...

Sentence 1 たら、 Sentence 2
Affirmative
Verb た-form ら、 Sentence 2
い-Adj (~) かった ら、 Sentence 2
な-Adj だった ら、 Sentence 2
Noun だった ら、 Sentence 2
Negative
Verb ない-form (~ない) なかったら、 Sentence 2
い-Adj (~) く なかったら、 Sentence 2
な-Adj で なかったら、 Sentence 2
Noun で なかったら、 Sentence 2

There is another shorter and simple way to show the sentence pattern...

Sentence 1 たら、 Sentence 2
Affirmative/Negative
Plain-form Past ら、 Sentence 2

Note: For な-Adj and Noun Negative
な-Adj/Noun で なかったら

Examples of Japanese Conditional Form たら (tara) Sentence

  1. 安かったら、たくさん買います。
    yasukattara, takusan kaimasu
    Meaning: If it's cheap, I'll buy a lot.

  2. コートを着たら、寒くありません。
    ko-to wo kitara, samukuarimasen
    Meaning: If you wear coat, you won't feel cold.

  3. 明日元気だったら、20km走ります。
    ashita genki dattara, 20km hashirimasu
    Meaning: If I feel energetic tomorrow, I'll run 20km.

  4. 雨だったら、出かけません。
    ame dattara, dekakemasen
    Meaning: If it rains, I won't go out.

  5. 時間がなかったら、映画を見ません。
    jikan ga nakattara, eiga wo mimasen
    Meaning: If I don't have time, I won't watch the movie.

  6. 寒くなかったら、T-シャツを着ます。
    samukunakattara, T-shatsu wo kimasu
    Meaning: If it's not cold, I'll wear T-shirt.

  7. 静かでなかったら、寝られません。
    shizuka denakattara, neraremasen
    Meaning: If it's not quiet, I cannot sleep.

  8. いい天気でながったら、うちでテレビを見ます。
    ii tenki denakattara, uchi de terebi wo mimasu
    Meaning: If the weather is not good, I'll watch TV at home.

Grammatical Reason to Use Japanese Conditional Form たら (tara) Sentence

As explained in the previous lesson, from the grammatical point of view, there are situations that you have to use たら (tara) sentence because of the regulation in Sentence 2. For example...

  1. お酒を飲む、運転してはいけません。 X
    osake wo nomu to, untenshitewa ikemasen X
    Meaning: You must not drive if you drink alcohol.

  2. お酒を飲め、運転してはいけません。 X
    osake wo nomeba, untenshitewa ikemasen X
    Meaning: You must not drive if you drink alcohol.

  3. お酒を飲んだら、運転してはいけません。 O
    osake wo nondara, untenshitewa ikemasen O
    Meaning: You must not drive if you drink alcohol.

Example 1 above is incorrect because you cannot have expression of prohibition in Sentence 2 for と (to) sentence.

In Example 2 the subjects of both Sentence 1 and Sentence 2 are the same - あなた (anata - You). The verb 飲む (nomu - drink) in Sentence 1 is an action verb, so you cannot have expression of one's hope, wish, request, permission, prohibition, etc in Sentence 2. Since 運転してはいけません (untenshitewa ikemasen) is a prohibition, this sentence is also incorrect using ば (ba) / なら (nara) sentence.

In this case, you can only use たら (tara) sentence for the conditional sentence.

Situations When All 3 Japanese Conditional Forms Can Be Used

However, there're situations when you can use all the conditional forms - と (to) sentence, ば (ba) / なら (nara) sentence and たら (tara) sentence. For example...

  1. 春になる、桜が咲きます。 O
    haru ni naru to, sakura ga sakimasu O
    Meaning: If Spring comes, the cherry blossom will bloom.

  2. 春になれ、桜が咲きます。 O
    haru ni nareba, sakura ga sakimasu O
    Meaning: If Spring comes, the cherry blossom will bloom.

  3. 春になったら、桜が咲きます。 O
    haru ni nattara, sakura ga sakimasu O
    Meaning: If Spring comes, the cherry blossom will bloom.

In Example 1 above, 桜が咲きます (sakura ga sakimasu) in Sentence 2 is not a personal intention, so と (to) sentence can be used.

In Example 2, 春になる (haru ni naru) in Sentence 1 is not an action verb. Hence, the regulation does not apply here. Therefore ば (ba) / なら (nara) sentence is also correct.

And obviously since たら (tara) sentence has no regulation, it's also correct to use it as in Example 3.

Since all the 3 Japanese conditional forms can be used here, it's natural that you'll ask how to decide which one to use? What is the situation that you should use と (to) sentence? What is the situation that you should use ば (ba) / なら (nara) sentence? And what is the situation that you should use たら (tara) sentence?

When to Use と, ば / なら and たら Sentences?

When you are constructing a sentence using Japanese conditional form, there are 2 aspects that you need to look into.

Firstly, you must look from the grammatical point of view, which means checking the sentence against the rules/regulations. If the sentence doesn't fulfill the regulations like the above example on お酒 (osake) and 運転 (unten), automatically there is no other choice but to use たら (tara) sentence.

However, for a sentence like the above example on 春 (haru) and 桜 (sakura) where you can use all the 3 Japanese conditional forms, which one do you use? In this case, you have to look into the second aspect - the conversational point of view. It means that depending on the type of sentence and the meaning of each sentence, you have to choose the appropriate Japanese conditional form.

It may seem difficult to select based on the conversational aspect, but once you know the requirements, it's quite simple. In fact, you have already learned the requirements to use と (to) sentence previously.

と (to) Sentence

You should remember that in the lesson on Japanese conditional form for と (to) sentence, it's mainly used in the following 4 types of sentences...

  1. Nature-related Fact
  2. Use of Machine
  3. Give Direction
  4. Somebody's Habitual Actions (Exception)

Although there are many regulations for using と (to) sentence, it's basically used in the above 4 special cases when you want to emphasize them.

ば (ba) / なら (nara) Sentence

From the conversational point of view, there are basically 2 types of sentences that require you to use ば (ba) / なら (nara) sentence...

  1. When Making 2 Opposite Suppositions
  2. To Show Requirement

1. When Making 2 Opposite Suppositions

Let's say your friend ask you the following question...

  • 明日何をしますか。
    ashita nani wo shimasu ka
    Meaning: What will you do tomorrow?

Suppose you are not sure about how is the weather tomorrow, so you give your friend 2 suppositions - "if it rains" and "if it doesn't rain". In this case, you can use ば (ba) / なら (nara) sentence.

  • 明日雨なら、うちでテレビを見ます。
    ashita ame nara, uchi de terebi wo mimasu
    Meaning: If it rains tomorrow, I'll watch TV at home.

  • 雨でなけれ、テニスをします。
    ame denakereba, tenisu wo shimasu
    Meaning: If it doesn't rain, I'll play tennis.

Since both situations are possible, you are giving 2 opposite suppositions in your answer using ば (ba) / なら (nara) sentence.

Let's look at another example. Suppose you are living in Los Angeles. You are asking your father what is the vacation plan for this coming summer.

  • 今度の夏休み、どこへ旅行に行きますか。
    kondo no natsu yasumi, doko e ryokou ni ikimasu ka
    Meaning: Where are we going for vacation this summer?

You father gives you 2 opposite suppositions - "if he has money" and "if he doesn't have money".

  • お金があれ、ヨーロッパに行きます。
    okane ga areba, yo-roppa ni ikimasu
    Meaning: If I have money, we'll go to Europe.

  • お金がなけれ、ディズニーランドに行きます。
    oakane ga nakereba, dizuni-rando ni ikimasu
    Meaning: If I don't have money, we'll go to Disneyland.

Since these 2 opposite suppositions are both possible, you can use ば (ba) / なら (nara) sentence. If there's only one supposition, you should use たら (tara) sentence.

2. To Show Requirement

For this type of sentence, it normally starts with a question. For example, if you want to improve your Japanese and ask your teacher what is the requirement to do that...

  • 先生、どうすれ日本語が上手になりますか。
    sensei, dou sureba nihongo ga jouzu ni narimasu ka
    Meaning: Teacher, what is required (what should I do) to improve my Japanese?

どうすれば (dou sureba) in the question is asking "What is required?".

To answer this question, your teacher will most probably reply you the following sentence with the requirement...

  • 毎日話せ日本語が上手になりますよ。
    mainichi hanaseba nihongo ga jouzu ni narimasu yo
    Meaning: If you speak Japanese every day, it will be improved.

Therefore to show requirement, you can use ば (ba) / なら (nara) sentence.

Let's see another example. Suppose you ask your teacher about Spring...

  • 春はどんな季節ですか。
    haru wa donna kisetsu desu ka
    Meaning: What kind of season is Spring?

If your teacher wants to tell you the fact about Spring in Japan, she will probably answer you in the following way...

  • 春になる、桜が咲きますよ。
    haru ni naru to, sakura ga sakimasu yo
    Meaning: If Spring comes, the cherry blossom will bloom.

But if you change your question and ask about what is the requirement for cherry blossom to bloom with the following question...

  • 先生、桜はいつ咲きますか。
    sensei, sakura wa itsu sakimasu ka
    Meaning: Teacher, when will cherry blossom bloom?

    OR

  • 私は桜が見たいです。どうすれ桜が咲きますか。
    watashi wa sukura ga mitai desu. dou sureba sakura ga sakimasu ka
    Meaning: I want to see cherry blossom. What is required for cherry blossom to bloom?

Then your teacher will most likely answer both questions with the following...

  • 春になれ、桜が咲きますよ。
    haru ni nareba, sakura ga sakimasu yo
    Meaning: If Spring comes, the cherry blossom will bloom.

In this case, your teacher wants to emphasize the requirement for cherry blossom to bloom, that's why she is using the ば (ba) / なら (nara) sentence.

たら (tara) Sentence

From the conversational point of view, if the sentence is not the 4 types of と (to) sentence and not the 2 types of ば (ba) / なら (nara) sentence as explained in the above sections, you can use たら (tara) sentence.

So you have to consider the 2 aspects when constructing a conditional sentence - grammatical and conversational. If grammatically the sentence is correct for all 3 conditional forms と (to), ば (ba) / なら (nara) and たら (tara) sentences, then you have to look from the conversational point of view and choose the most appropriate type of sentence to use.

One Exception for たら (tara) Sentence

While there is no regulation for たら (tara) sentence grammatically, there is one exception that you need to take note.

For all the 3 Japanese conditional forms you have learned so far, と (to), ば (ba) / なら (nara) and たら (tara) sentences, they all have one common point. It's always the case that after the condition in Sentence 1 is set, then the result in Sentence 2 happens. Time flow is always from Sentence 1 to Sentence 2.

For example, in this sentence 春になると、桜が咲きます。 (haru ni naru to sakura ga sakimasu), Spring has to come first then cherry blossom bloom. In this sentence コートを着たら、寒くありません。 (ko-to wo kitara, samukuarimasen), it's only after you wore the coat then you are not feeling cold.

However, this is not always the case. Sometimes you may want to let the result in Sentence 2 to happen first before the condition in Sentence 1 is set. For example, if you are telling your friend "If you come to my house tomorrow, please call me before coming."

  • 明日うちへ来ます。(来る前に)電話をしてください。
    ashita uchi e kimasu. (kuru mae ni) denwa wo shite kudasai

For this example, "電話をする (denwa wo suru)" happens before "coming to my house". In this case, you cannot use たら (tara) sentence. You have to use the following new form...

Verb Dict-form なら、 Sentence 2

Note: This なら (nara) is different from the なら (nara) that you have learned in ば (ba) / なら (nara) sentence. The one you have learned can only be used for な-adj or Noun sentence. This new form "Dict-form なら" is used when you want to show that the result in Sentence 2 happens before Sentence 1.

Japanese Conditional Form たら sentence Exception

Therefore using the new form "Dict-form なら", the previous example should be...

  • 明日うちへ来るなら、電話をしてください。 O
    ashita uchi e kuru nara, denwa wo shite kudasai O
    Meaning: If you come to my house tomorrow, please call me before coming.

If you were to use たら (tara) sentence in the above example...

  • 明日うちへ来たら、電話をしてください。 (grammatically correct, but meaning is wrong)
    ashita uchi e kitara, denwa wo shite kudasai
    Meaning: If you come to my house tomorrow, please call me (at my house).

The above sentence looks weird, isn't it? You friend should call you before coming to your house. But if you use たら (tara) sentence, you are asking him to call you after he has reached your house.

Practices on Japanese Conditional Form たら and Dict-form なら Sentences

Let's check if you can tell where the speaker will like to study Japanese in the following examples using たら (tara) and Dict-form なら (Dict-form nara) sentences...

  1. 日本へ行ったら、日本語を勉強しようと思います。
    nihon e ittara, nihongo wo benkyou shiyou to omoimasu

  2. 日本へ行くなら、日本語を勉強しようと思います。
    nihon e iku nara, nihongo wo benkyou shiyou to omoimasu

Answers

Have you got the correct answers?

  1. In Example 1 above, the speaker is going to study Japanese when he/she is in Japan because たら (tara) sentence is used. Sentence 1 in たら (tara) sentence always happen before Sentence 2.

  2. In Example 2, the speaker is going to study Japanese before he/she is in Japan because Dict-form なら (Dict-form nara) sentence is used. That means the speaker is going to study Japanese in his/her own country before he/she goes to Japan.

Depends on the sentence you make, the meaning can be different.

Related Pages

Lesson 24: と (to) Sentence.

Lesson 25: ても (temo) Sentence.

Lesson 26: ば (ba) / なら (nara) Sentence.

Lesson 28: たら (tara) Sentence Special Case.

Lesson 33: たら (tara) Sentence for Discovery.

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