Japanese Conditional Form -
Part 1. ~と (~to) Sentence -
Intermediate Lessons: 24

In this lesson and the following few lessons, you will get to learn the Japanese conditional form, which is considered to be one of the most difficult topic in Japanese language.

In English, you can normally use the pair of words "if~ then~" for almost all conditional sentences - "If something happens, then something happens".

However, in Japanese you need to change to different conditional forms depending on the situation. These Japanese conditional forms include と (to), ても (temo), ば (ba), なら (nara) and たら (tara) sentences. They are all different, though they all translate to "if" in English.

In order to understand how to use all of them, the most important thing is to remember which conditional form to use during each specific situation. In this way, you won't be confused about using the wrong conditional form.

Let's get started with the first conditional form と (to) sentence and study the sentence patterns...

Sentence 1 (Plain-form) と、 Sentence 2
Affirmative
Verb (Dictionary-form) と、 Sentence 2
い-Adj (~い) と、 Sentence 2
な-Adj だ と、 Sentence 2
Noun だ と、 Sentence 2
Negative
Verb (ない-form) と、 Sentence 2
い-Adj (~) くない と、 Sentence 2
な-Adj でない と、 Sentence 2
Noun でない と、 Sentence 2

Note 1: For と sentence, sentence structure is always in present tense. That means Sentence 1 and Sentence 2 are always in present tense, no past tense.

Note 2: For negative な-Adj and Noun sentence, use でない (denai) instead of ではない (dewanai).

In the above sentence patterns, the left hand sides are the conditions, the right hand sides are what happen next when the conditions are fulfilled.

Let's check out some examples (Affirmative) to see how to use the Japanese conditional form と sentence...

Japanese Conditional Form: と sentence

  1. 電気をつける、明るくなります。
    denki wo tsukeru to, akaruku narimasu
    Meaning: If you turn on the light, it will become brighter.

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

  3. 2と3を足す、5になります。
    ni to san wo tasu to, go ni narimasu
    Meaning: If you add 3 to 2, it will become 5.

  4. 暑い、喉が渇きます。
    atsui to, nodo ga kawakimasu
    Meaning: If the weather is hot, you will get thirsty.

  5. 静かだ、よく眠れます。
    shizuka da to, yoku nemuremasu
    Meaning: If it's quiet, you can sleep well.

  6. 20歳以上だ、日本ではお酒が飲めます。
    hatachi ijou da to, nihon dewa osake ga nomemasu
    Meaning: If you are above 20 years old, you can drink alcohol in Japan.

Let's take a look at some examples which make use of Negative forms...

  1. 夜電気をつけない、暗いです。
    yoru denki wo tsukenai to, kurai desu
    Meaning: If you don't turn on the light in the night, it's dark here.

  2. 雪が降らない、スキーができません。
    yuki ga furanai to, suki- ga dekimasen
    Meaning: If there is no snow, you cannot ski.

  3. 何も食べない、痩せます。
    nanimo tabenai to, yasemasu
    Meaning: If you don't eat anything, you will become thin.

  4. 背が高くない、モデルになれません。
    se ga takakunai to, moderu ni naremasen
    Meaning: If you're not tall, you cannot become a model.

  5. 静かでない、よく眠れません。
    shizuka denai to, yoku nemuremasen
    Meaning: If it's not quiet, you cannot sleep well.

  6. いい天気でない、遠くの山が見えません。
    ii tenki denai to, tooku no yama ga miemasen
    Meaning: If the weather is not good, you cannot see the mountain far away.

Rules of Using the Japanese Conditional Form と (to) Sentence

From the above examples, you will notice that...

と (to) sentence expresses Sentence 2 inevitably as a result of Sentence 1. It means whenever the condition in Sentence 1 is set, result in Sentence 2 will always happen. Therefore expressions used in Sentence 2 are natural and predictable events/states or unavoidable facts.

Based on the above 'rules', と (to) sentence is mainly used in the following 3 types of sentences...

  1. Nature-related Fact
  2. Use of Machine
  3. Give Direction

Note: Expressions of one's will, hope, judgement, permission, order, invitation or request, etc cannot be used in Sentence 2.

1. Nature-related Fact

In one of the above examples...

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

...it's a nature-related fact we know that "If Spring comes, the cherry blossom will bloom". The cherry blossom will not bloom in Summer, Autumn and Winter.

Another example on nature-related fact...

  • 祖父は眼鏡をかけない、新聞が読めません。
    sofu wa megane wo kakenai to, shinbun ga yomemasen
    Meaning: If my grandfather does not wear glasses, he can't read the newspaper.

2. Use of Machine

When you use the train ticketing machine, if you press the button of the 200 yen ticket after inserting the money, the 200 yen ticket will be dispensed. The 180 yen ticket or 220 yen ticket will not be dispensed if you press the 200 yen ticket's button. You can use Japanese conditional form と sentence for this kind of situation (using of machine).

  • このボタンを押す、200円の切符が出ます。
    kono botan wo osu to, 200 yen no kippu ga demasu
    Meaning: If you press this button, 200 yen ticket will come out.

Another machine example...

  • このノブを回す、音が大きくなります。
    kono nobu wo mawasu to, oto ga ookiku narimasu
    Meaning: If you turn this knob, volume will go up.

3. Give Direction

The locations of buildings, places, etc do not change. Unless a building was demolished and relocated to another place, you will always find the same building at the same location. Therefore Japanese conditional form と sentence can be used when giving direction to places. For example...

  • まっすぐ行く、右に病院があります。
    massugu iku to, migi ni byouin ga arimasu
    Meaning: If you go straight, you will find the hospital on the right.

Another example...

  • あの交差点を左に曲がる、郵便局があります。
    ano kousaten wo hidari ni magaru to, yuubinkyoku ga arimasu
    Meaning: If you turn left at that crossroad, you will find the post office.

Example of Wrong Use of と Sentence

It's stated that expressions of one's will, hope, judgement, permission, order, invitation or request, etc cannot be used in Sentence 2 of Japanese conditional form と Sentence.

If you say 春になる、日本へ行きます。 (haru ni naru to, nihon e ikimasu), it means "If Spring comes, I will go to Japan". The second sentence here is a personal will, which cannot be used in the Japanese conditional form と sentence according to the rules. Therefore this sentence is incorrect in Japanese context.

This is a common mistake. Probably the speaker wants to say "When Spring comes, I am going to Japan". It sounds perfect for English. But remember that for と sentence, whenever condition in Sentence 1 is set, the result in Sentence 2 will always happen. In this example, "going to Japan" is a one-time event. It doesn't happen for every Spring. Therefore と sentence cannot be used in this situation.

Exception

However, if the event of "going to Japan" is a habitual action, that means you go to Japan every year (without fail) when Spring comes, then you can use と sentence. You have to put 毎年 (maitoshi) which means every year to make the action habitual.

  • 毎年春になる、日本へ行きます。
    maitoshi haru ni naru to, nihon e ikimasu
    Meaning: Every year when Spring comes, I go to Japan.


In the next few intermediate lessons, the rest of the Japanese conditional forms will be discussed.

Related Pages

Lesson 25: ても (temo) Sentence.

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

Lesson 27: たら (tara) Sentence.

Lesson 28: たら (tara) Sentence Special Case.

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