731 - ~ようものなら

Japanese conditionals... they haunt me.

OK, that's an exaggeration. But I do get a little bit nervous anytime I need to write an article about a conditional phrase like ~たら、~ば、or なら.

It's difficult to explain how they're used differently. I was well past N1 level before I really understood the difference between the various conditional forms of Japanese.

Alas, I will not be teaching those differences in this lesson, either. I'll save it for the fifteen or so conditional patterns getting covered in N4 and N3 lessons.

Anyway, I often mention that it can help to think of the word なら as meaning "if it is the case that." I talked about this idea a bit in [NDL #661] - JLPT N2: ものなら, a lesson I thoroughly enjoyed writing.

In that lesson, we saw how ものなら can be used in a conversation like this:


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).”


Though somewhat less exciting, the grammar point we're looking at here is a bit similar...


JLPT N1: ~ようものなら (if X were to ~, then...)

First we take a verb and put it into the volitional form (=Vよう).

Then we snap ものなら onto the end of that.

The resulting phrase is "if X were to VERB, then..." as in the following sentence:


潔癖症の彼が私の部屋をようものなら、ショック死するかもしれない。
けっぺきしょう の かれ が わたし の へや を みようものなら、 ショックし する かもしれない。
If a clean freak like him saw my room, he might die of shock.
Literally: “clean freak / neat freak + の + he + が + I + の + room + を + if he were to see, + dying of shock + do + maybe.”
Note: The meaning is actually "If he-the-clean-freak saw..." Or if "his" name is "Dan," for example, we could say "If clean-freak Dan saw..."


I always have trouble translating these sentences that have "description の person" as the subject. It makes it very hard to fit all of the Japanese into a single sentence. And yet, using two sentences can feel like over-translating:
- If a clean freak like him saw my room...
- He's such a clean freak. If he saw my room...
- He's a total clean freak. If he saw my room...

I was also going back and forth as to whether I should translate 潔癖症 (けっぺきしょう) as "clean freak" or "neat freak."

Based on the research I did, "neat freak" is a more common phrase in English, but I don't think "neat" matches up with the nuance of 潔癖症 (けっぺきしょう).

A neat person is not messy. So they wouldn't have clothes all over the floor, but there might be quite a bit of dust on their shelves. If you're 潔癖症, though, you despise things that are "dirty," "filthy," "impure," and so on.

...maybe a "neat freak" does, too. I don't know. (If you don't like pondering stuff like this, don't become a translator).

Focus. We need to look at grammar.

Right. So we have this guy:

潔癖症の彼
けっぺきしょう の かれ
a clean freak like him
Literally: “clean freak / neat freak + の + he”


...and if he were to see "my" room:

私の部屋をようものなら
わたし の へや を みようものなら
if he were to see my room
Literally: “I + の + room + を + if he were to see”


...he might die of shock:

ショック死するかもしれない
ショックし する かもしれない
he might die of shock
Literally: “dying of shock + do + maybe”


Throw in a particle here, a comma there, and we've got a full sentence:


潔癖症の彼が私の部屋をようものなら、ショック死するかもしれない。
けっぺきしょう の かれ が わたし の へや を みようものなら、 ショックし する かもしれない。
If a clean freak like him saw my room, he might die of shock.
Literally: “clean freak / neat freak + の + he + が + I + の + room + を + if he were to see, + dying of shock + do + maybe.”


Makes sense, yeah?


👷 Construction 👷

I already mentioned this earlier, but our sentences will have this format:

V ようものなら
if (X) were to VERB


Just three more examples, my friend.

The sentences are a bit long... but they're not nearly as long as the paragraphs you'll encounter on the N2 test, so maybe they won't wear you out too much.


麻弥さんは時間に厳しい。待ち合わせに1分でも遅れようものなら、大変なことになる。
まや さん は じかん に きびしい。 まちあわせ に いっぷん でも おくれようものなら、 たいへんな こと に なる。
Maya-san is crazy about being punctual. If you’re even a minute late to meet with her, there’ll be trouble.
Literally: “Maya-san + は + time + に + strict. + appointment / meeting + に + one minute + even + if you were to be late, + tough / difficult + thing + に + become.”



ハルキストの彼の前で村上春樹の悪口をおうものなら、地獄を見ることになりますよ。
ハルキスト の かれ の まえ で むらかみはるき の わるぐち を いおうものなら、 じごく を みる ことになります よ。
If you say anything bad about Haruki Murakami in front of a Harukist [major fan of Murakami] like him, it’ll be the last thing you ever say.
Literally: “Harukist (=major fan of Haruki Murakami) + の + he + の + in front of + で + Murakami Haruki + の + insult + を + if you were to say, + hell + を + see + thing + に + become + よ.”
Note: Haruki Murakami is an uber-famous Japanese author.




あんなに意地悪な人が社長にろうものなら、半分以上の社員は仕事を辞めるだろう。
あんな に いじわるな ひと が しゃちょう に なろうものなら、 はんぶん いじょう の しゃいん は しごと を やめる だろう。
If a jerk like him became the company president, over half the employees would quit.
Literally: “that much + mean / cruel + person + が + company president + に + if he were to become, + half + more than + の + employees + は + job + を + quit + だろう.”



One more grammar point out of the way.

You're like a grammar glutton, going through all of this Japanese.

If you want to have some more fun with conditionals, here are a bunch that we've covered:
- [NDL #318] - JLPT N2: くらいなら
- [NDL #655] - JLPT N1: ならでは
- [NDL #661] - JLPT N2: ものなら
- [NDL #484] - JLPT N4: ~たら (if)
- [NDL #491] - JLPT N4: ~たら (after)
- [NDL #560] - JLPT N4: ~といい (hope)
- [NDL #561] - JLPT N4: ~たらいい (hope)
- [NDL #567] - JLPT N4: ~ばいい (hope)
- [NDL #368] - JLPT N1: ~たら最後
- [NDL #436] - JLPT N3: さえ~ば

Discussion

0 comments