318 - くらいなら
JLPT N2: くらいなら
Sometimes when studying a foreign language, even after years of studying, it can feel like a challenge to express yourself.
After studying all of the JLPT N3 grammar, I felt I was able to say pretty much anything I wanted, (in a broken and stuttering manner), but I still wasn’t really “me” in Japanese. My sentences were halted, I still had major vocabulary gaps, but the main frustration was not having some useful expressions to show my personality in Japanese.
This is why くらいなら is one of my favorite grammar points.
In short it means “would rather” or “would sooner.”
When I learned this expression, it felt like something I would use, even in English. It was the first taste that I would be able to show my true self when I spoke and wrote Japanese.
So let’s go over the construction:
Simply put, there are two actions in each sentence, A and B:
A + くらいなら + B
In this construction the speaker would rather do B than A. Here is an example:
おかし を がまん する くらいなら、 いっしょう ふとっている ほうがいい。
I would rather be fat my whole life than deny myself sweets.
Literally: “sweets + を + self-control + do + くらいなら + whole life + being fat + prefer (= way + が + good).”
Note: There is no simple word for お菓子 in English. It ranges from potato chips to chocolate to candy. Look it up on Google images, and it should give you a pretty good idea.
As you can see in the above sentence, A is an undesirable action (denying oneself of sweets), and B is what the speaker would rather do instead.
Most くらいなら sentences are ended with 方がいい or other expressions that indicate a preferable action.
Also, note that by itself くらい means something like "to the extent that," and なら means something like "if." So a quasi-literal translation of the above sentence could be:
If it's to the extent that I have to deny myself sweets, I'd rather be fat my whole life.
Let’s look at another few examples:
いじめっこ に なる くらいなら、 いじめられた ほう が まし だ。
I would rather be bullied than become a bully.
Literally: “bully + に + become + くらいなら + be bullied + way + が + better + だ”
Note: ましだ is another grammar expression that indicates a preferable action, or something less objectionable.
まいにち いちじかんはん かけて つうきん する くらいなら、 かいしゃ の ちかく に ひっこした ほう が はやい。
I would sooner move close to the company than spend an hour and a half commuting every day.
Literally: “every day + one and a half hours + spend + commute + do + くらいなら + company + の + close + に + move + way + が + sooner”
Essentially, this is a way to complain, which all of us like to do sometimes. (Especially me!)
Can you think of how you would use this grammar point to express the following ideas?
“I would rather quit than work with him again!”
“I would sooner divorce my husband than get rid of my dog because of his allergies.”
Look below for the answers:
かれ と いっしょ に しごと を する くらいなら、かいしゃ を やめた ほう が いい。
I would rather quit than work with him again!
Literally: "he + と + with + に + work + do + くらいなら + company + を + quit + way + が + good"
アレルギー の おっと の ために いぬ を すてる くらいなら、りこん する ほう が まし だ。
I would sooner divorce my husband than get rid of my dog because of his allergies.
Literally: "allergy + の + husband + for (=のために) + dog + を + throw away + くらいなら + husband + と + divorce + way + が + better + だ."
Don't worry if you didn't guess the answers exactly. That'd be borderline impossible. The key is just forming a sentence that makes sense. ^^
Try to think of ways you could use this expression in your daily life！
This lesson was written by Cassy L., a guest contributor: