661 - ものなら

A lot of N2 and N1 grammar is boring, bookish stuff that you only see in written Japanese.

Not this grammar, though:


JLPT N2: ものなら (if I can; if you can)

ものなら comes after a VERB expressing potential when saying "if I can VERB," "if you can VERB," etc.

Using ものなら makes it sound like the VERB will be something difficult to do.

For example, you could say:


できるものなら宇宙船に乗って宇宙を観光してみたい。
できる ものなら うちゅうせん に のって うちゅう を かんこう して みたい。
If I can, I’d like to go sightseeing in outer space someday.
Literally: “can do + ものなら + spaceship + に + board / ride (and) + outer space + を + sightseeing + want to try doing (=do [and] + want to see).”
Note: More literally, we could put, "If I can, I'd like to go in a spaceship and go sightseeing in outer space."


👷 工事 👷

Just put a VERB that expresses potential right before ものなら, then follow it with a clause containing a hope, a command, etc.

VERB expressing potentialものなら

I put "VERB expressing potential" and not "Potential-Form VERB" because some verbs that express potential are not in potential form, as in this sentence:


ビザが手に入るものならフィリピンに引っ越したいのだが、私の年齢では難しそうだ。
ビザ が てにはいる ものなら フィリピン に ひっこしたい のだ が、 わたし の ねんれい で は むずかしそう だ。
If I can get a visa, I’d like to move to the Philippines, but it seems that it’ll be difficult at my age.
Literally: “visa + が + obtain / get one’s hands on (=hand + に + enter) + ものなら + Philippines + に + want to move + のだが, + I + の + age + では + looks difficult + だ.”


Now for the fun part.

In lots of TV shows, manga, and so on, you'll hear characters using ものなら when taunting an opponent of some kind, as in this dialogue:


A:
ぶっ飛ばしてやる!
ぶっとばして やる!
I’m gonna beat the sh** out of you!
Literally: “hit (and send flying) (and) + do!”


B:
やれるものならやってみな。
やれる ものなら やって みな。
Go ahead and try. // I’d like to see you try.
Literally: “can do + ものなら + try to do (it).”

If you don't understand the ending of this command, みな (=ます-stem of みる + な), go back and look at these lessons:
- [NDL #30] - Spicy-spicy-spicy instant Japanese curry
- [NDL #48] - Could I possibly conjugate that verb for you?
- [NDL #49] - Making Requests Like a Boss

Since this language is often used when taunting opponents of some kind, you might see it in very casual or even rude sentences.

I remember the first time that I heard (and understood) this being used: Harry Potter!

There's a scene in the first movie where Malfoy, flying on a broom, has Neville's Remembrall, and Harry demands that he give it back. The English version differs a bit, but in the Japanese, their dialogue goes something like:

Harry: Give that back, or I'll knock you off your broom!
Malfoy: I wonder if you can. If you can take it, then go ahead and try! *throws Remembrall*

Here's the line in the movie:


とれるものならとってみろ!
とれる ものなら とってみろ!
If you can take it, then go ahead and try!
Literally: “can take + ものなら + try to take (=take [and] + see [(command)])!”
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In casual situations, もの is often changed to just もん.

Actually, in that sentence by Malfoy, it was very, very hard for me to tell whether he was saying もの or もん. Rei thinks he's saying もの, so I went with that.

I did find a video where a TV show character is saying もん, though:


やれるもんならやってみな。
やれる もんなら やってみな。
Go ahead and try. // Go ahead and do it... if you can.
Literally: “can do + もんなら + try to do (it).”
Note: It's a bit difficult to translate this out of context, so the meaning could vary a bit depending on the situation.
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I have to say, he's a much more intimidating villain than Malfoy.


I doubt that you'll encounter too many entertaining villains in your JLPT N2 test, sadly.

So we should study sentences like these, too...


A:
今日は仕事のことなんか忘れて、めいっぱい楽しみましょうよ。
きょう は しごと の こと なんか わすれて、 めいっぱい たのしみましょう よ。
Let’s just forget all about work today and have a ton of fun.
Literally: “today + は + work / job + の + thing + the likes of (=なんか) + forget (and), + with all one’s might + let’s have fun / let’s enjoy ourselves + よ.”

B:
忘れられるものなら忘れたいんだけど...。
わすられる ものなら わすれたい んだ けど...。
I’d like that… though I’m not sure if I can do it. // Sounds nice. But that’s easier said than done.
Literally: “can forget + ものなら + want to forget + んだけど...”


Last one:


ジョージ・クルーニーと付き合えるものなら、なんでもやります。
ジョージ・クルーニー と つきあえる ものなら、 なんでも やります。
I would do anything to be with George Clooney.
Literally: “George Clooney + と + can be with / can date + ものなら, + anything + do.”


That's it for this one. Hope you enjoyed it.


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