916 - によっては

JLPT N3: によっては (some [people, things, cases, etc.])

I'll be honest, when I first set out to write this lesson, I was a little bit confused.

You may recall that we had a lesson on how によって is used to say "depending on," as in this sentence:

時と場合によって、メガネとコンタクトを使い分けています。
とき と ばあい によって、 メガネ と コンタクト を つかいわけています。
Depending on the time and situation, I wear either glasses or contacts.
Literally: “time + と + situation + によって, + (eye)glasses + と + contact + を + am using (different things) for different purposes.”
Note: 時と場合によって is a set phrase.


Well, when we add the particle to the end of によって — giving us によっては — the meaning changes slightly. Instead of "depending on," the meaning is something like the "some" in the following sentence:

車の値段はピンからキリまであるが、ものによっては何千万円もする。
くるま の ねだん は ピンからキリまで ある が、 もの によっては なんぜんまん えん も する。
Cars are sold for a wide range of prices. Some even cost tens of millions of yen.
Literally: “car + の + price + は + all sorts of / a wide range + there are + が, + thing + によっては + tens of millions (=what + thousand + ten thousand) + yen + も + cost.”


This is where I ran into some trouble. I asked Rei if we could remove the in the above sentence. Would it still be accurate? Would the meaning change?

Her answer was that it sounded a little bit awkward to her, but both of us were having trouble pinpointing why removing the from によっては in the above sentence would make it sound less natural.

We suspected that the was somehow necessitated by the fact that the sentence has a somewhat negative nuance to it. That is, the situation coming after によっては, "even cost tens of millions of yen," was not desirable. That matched up nicely with our next example, too:

あそこの定食屋さんは大人気で、によっては1時間以上待つこともある。
あそこ の ていしょくやさん は だいにんき で、 ひ によっては いちじかん いじょう まつ こと も ある。
That set-meal restaurant is really popular. On some days, you have to wait over an hour to get seated.
Literally: “over there + の + restaurant that serves set meals (usu. [traditional] Japanese food) + は + very popular + で, + day + によっては + one hour + and up / or more + wait + thing + も + there is.”
Note: If you want some classic Japanese food, seek out a 定食 (ていしょく // set meal) restaurant.


Having to wait over an hour to get seated isn't exactly desirable, is it? So, we thought, it makes sense that we're saying によっては and not just によって.

But I couldn't shake the feeling that we still hadn't found the perfect answer as to why the is needed in these sentences. Then I had a realization: によって wouldn't work in the above examples because the second half of these sentences is not talking about multiple possible outcomes. Each of them is talking about a single possible outcome (that is negative).

Single possible outcomes:
- (cars) cost tense of millions of yen
- you have to wait over an hour to get seated

Multiple possible outcomes:
- I wear glasses OR I wear contacts

Eureka!

But my troubles weren't quite over. I still had to confront the somewhat confusing fact that our "some" sentences (=sentences describing a single possible outcome) would sometimes sound most natural when translated into English sentences containing the phrase "depending on:"

来月のテストの点数によっては、留年してしまうかもしれない。
らいげつ の テスト の てんすう によっては、 りゅうねん してしまう かもしれない。
Depending on the score I get on next month’s test, I might have to repeat the school year.
Literally: “next month + の + test + の + points / score + によっては, + repeating a year (at school) + might end up doing.”


On closer inspection, though, we're still looking at a single outcome here: having to repeat the school year.

That's why we use によっては and not によって.

Hold on, you might argue. There are multiple possibilities in the によっては examples, too, such as "(not) having to repeat the school year" or "(not) having to wait over an hour to get seated."

An astute observation. But the message being conveyed in the によっては sentences is not that there are multiple possible outcomes. The message being conveyed is that there is one possible (negative) outcome in certain situations. That's the "focus" of the sentences, so to speak.

Consider our last sentence, for example:

お住まいの都道府県によっては、別途配送料がかかることがあります。ご了承ください。
おすまい の とどうふけん によっては、 べっと はいそうりょう が かかる ことがあります。 ごりょうしょう ください。
Depending on which area of Japan you are living in, there may be an additional delivery charge. Thank you for your understanding.
Literally: “residence / dwelling + の + administrative divisions of Japan (=Tokyo-to, Hokkai-do, Osaka-fu and Kyoto-fu, plus remaining prefectures) + によっては, + separate / special + delivery fee + が + cost + thing + が + there is. + acknowledgment / understanding + please.”


A Japanese person reading the above sentence would assume that they're going to have to pay an additional delivery charge if they live in one of the more remote areas of Japan, like Hokkaido or Okinawa. The point of the sentence is to convey the one possible (negative) outcome (=paying more money) that may result depending on where they live.

Conversely, in the following example from our によって lesson, the point of the sentence is to convey is that there are multiple possible outcomes that may result depending on the results of a previous school term:

前学期の成績によって生徒を三つのクラスに分けた。
ぜんがっき の せいせき によって せいと を みっつ の クラス に わけた。
We divided students into three classes based on their grades for the previous term [semester].
Literally: “previous school term + の + grades / results + によって + students + を + three (things) + の + class + に + divided.”


Did I confuse you?

If so, please allow me to offer my deepest apologies. Re-reading the lesson on によって and then re-reading this lesson may help to clear things up.

Or you can shoot for max confusion by reading all of our lessons related to によって as quickly as possible:

☑ によって (depending on)
☑ によって (through)
☑ によって (by)
☑ によると (according to)
☑ によっては (some)
☐ によって (because of)