Wild Nihongo!
~たら

~たら

~たら Japanese Grammar Lesson

Grammar Type: Conjunction

Essential Meaning: If / When / After

Construction: 

  • (Verb / い-Adjective / な-Adjective / Noun + Copula) informal nonpast + ら
    • E.g. はなしたら [If X speaks / When X speaks]
    • E.g. たかかったら [If X is expensive]
    • E.g. しずかだったら [If X is quiet]
    • E.g. 先生せんせいだったら [If X is a teacher]

Notes:

  • In the structure Sentence 1 たら Sentence 2, the dependent clause (Sentence 1) represents an antecedent, and the main clause (Sentence 2) represents a subsequence. In other words, Sentence 1 represents a state or action that precedes Sentence 2 temporally.
    • E.g. *わたしはシカゴへったらたいていくるまきます。[When I go to Chicago, I usually go by car.] This sentence is incorrect because taking the bus and going to Chicago occur simultaneously and not sequentially. とき should be used instead.
    • E.g. *シカゴへったらバスできなさい。[If you go to Chicago, go by bus.] This sentence is incorrect for the same reason as above. なら would be an appropriate conjunction.
  • Often times, Sentence 1 たら Sentence 2 represents an if-then conditional (i.e. “If Sentence 1, then Sentence 2″).
    • E.g. 英語えいごだったらわかるとおもいます。 [If it’s in English, then I think I’ll understand it.]
  • When the situation is more certain (i.e. the situation in Sentence 1 definitely occurs or definitely will occur), the structure may be interpreted as “When Sentence 1, then Sentence 2“.
    • E.g. 12になったら、かえります。[When it turns 12, I’ll go home.] It wouldn’t sense to to interpret this sentence as an if-then conditional (i.e. “If it turns 12…“) since it will certainly turn 12 at some point.
  • With ~たら, もし can be placed at the beginning of Sentence 1 to give the structure an unambiguous “If…then” interpretation.
    • E.g. もしヤマダさんがたらわたしかえります。[If Yamada-san comes, then I will leave.] もし signals that the speaker is saying “If Yamada-san comes, I will leave” and NOT “When Yamada-san comes, I will leave.”
  • Sentence 1 たら Sentence 2 may also express a command, request, suggestion, invitation, or volitional statement.
    • E.g. Command: 仕事しごとわったらぼくのうちになさい。[When work is over, come to my house.]
    • E.g. Request: 仕事しごとはやわったらぼくのうちにてください[If you finish work early, please come to my house.]
    • E.g. Suggestion: 仕事しごとはやわったらぼくのうちにたらどうですか。 [If you finish work early, why don’t you come to my house?]
    • E.g. Invitation: 仕事しごとはやわったらぼくのうちにませんか。[If you finish work early, would you like to come to my house?]
    • E.g. Volitional Statement: 仕事しごとはやわったらおうちにおうかがいします。[If I finish work early, I’ll go to your house.]
  • Sentence 1 たら Sentence 2 may be used counterfactually to say “If X were the case, then Y“.
    • E.g. かねがあったらこんなうちにはいない。[If I had money, I wouldn’t be in a house like this.]
    • E.g. あのときかねがあったら日本にほんっていたでしょう。[If I had money at that time, I would have gone to Japan.]
  • When Sentence 1 たら Sentence 2 represents a past sequence of events, Sentence 2 can not express a deliberate action taken by the subject. Instead. it must express an accident, happenstance, natural consequence, et cetera.
    • E.g. 学校がっこうったら、ぐうぜん上田うえださんにった。[When I went to school, I happened to bump into Ueda-san.] This example is OK because meeting Ueda san occurred by happenstance.
    • E.g. *学校がっこうったら上田うえださんとはなした。[When I went to school, I spoke with Ueda-san.] This sentence is not OK because the subject spoke to Ueda san deliberately.
    • E.g. さけんだらてしまった。[I drank liquor, and then I accidentally fell asleep.] This sentence is OK because the subject fell asleep accidentally.
    • E.g. *おさけんだらた。[I drank liquor and then went to sleep.] This sentence is NOT ok since the subject slept purposefully.
  • Sentence 1 たら Sentence 2 is similar to other conditional structures such as , なら, and と (Natural Consequence), but they differ in the following ways:
    • (1) ~たら and と (Natural Consequence) can describe past events, but and なら can NOT.
      • E.g. 先生せんせいいたら / くと すぐかった。[When I asked the teacher, I understood immediately.] ~たら and と (Natural Consequence) CAN be used with the past tense.
      • E.g. *先生せんせいけば / いたなら すぐかった。[When I asked the teacher, I understood immediately.] and なら CAN’T be used with the past tense.
    • (2) ~たら, なら, and can be used with commands, requests, suggestions, invitations, or volitional statements, but と (Natural Consequence) can NOT.
      • E.g. やすかったら/ やすければ / やすいならいなさい[If it’s cheap, buy it.] This sentence is a command. ~たら, なら, and CAN be used with volitional sentences such as requests.
      • E.g. *やすいといなさい。[If it’s cheap, buy it.] This sentence is a command. と (Natural Consequence) CAN’T be used with volitional sentences such as commands.
    • (3) When used with commands, requests, suggestions, invitations, or volitional sentences, ~たら, なら, and have slightly different connotations. Namely, ~たら emphasizes the conditional SEQUENCE of events (i.e. “If / When X happens, Y happens“). なら also represents a conditional (i.e. “If X, Then Y“), but it does not imply that X occurs before Y. emphasizes the CONDITION (i.e. “Y will happen only under the condition that X happens first“).
      • E.g. べんがたら、わたしかえります。[When / If Ben comes, I will go home.]
      • E.g. べんがれば、わたしかえります。 [If Ben Comes, I’ll go home. Otherwise, I’ll stay.]
      • E.g. べんがるなら、わたしかえります。[If it’s true that Ben is coming / came, I’ll go home.]
    • (4) ~たら, なら, and can be used counterfactually, but と (Natural Consequence) can NOT (except for the idiomatic expression といい / とよかった).
      • E.g. あのときかねがあったら / あれば / あったなら日本にほんっていただろう。[If I had money at that time, I would have gone to Japan.]
      • E.g. *あのときかねがあると日本にほんっていただろう。 [If I had money at that time, I would have gone to Japan.]

Example Sentences:

山田やまださんがたらわたしかえる。[If / When Yamada-san comes, I will go home.]

先生せんせいいたらすぐかった。[When I asked my teacher, I understood immediately.]

わたし大学だいがくたら小学しょうがく先生せんせいになります。[When I graduate from university, I will become an elementary school teacher.]

わたしいそがしいですから、おもしろかったらみますが、おもしろくなかったらみませんよ。[Because I’m busy, if it’s interesting I’ll read it, but if it’s not interesting I won’t read it.]

きらいだったらのこしてください。[If you don’t like it, please leave it.]

英語えいごだったらかるとおもいます。[If it’s in English, I think I’ll understand.]

WILD Examples:

At 2:07. listen for the following: れたとおもったらコイキング。[If you think you’ve caught a fish, it’s Koiking!]
Listen to this line at the very start of the song: 人間にんげんなれたらくんだ、ニューオーリンズ! [When I’m able to to become a human, I’ll go to New Orleans!]
The opening line of this song goes as follows: すずめの兄弟きょうだい電線でんせんで、おおきくなったらなんになる?[Sparrow siblings on the telephone line…what will you become when you grow up?] ~たら is used repeatedly throughout this song.

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