737 - ~ば...(のに)

[NDL #737] - JLPT N3: ~ば...(のに)《would have

In the last couple of lessons — one on なら and one on ~ば — we've been looking at some of the more confusing aspects of Japanese conditional sentences.

Here, we're looking at something that's both a bit more straightforward and exceptionally useful.

The ~ば conditional can be used when saying that something which did not happen or was not done would have been good, preferable, etc. if it had happened.

An example:


家を出るのがあと3分早けれ間に合ったんだけれど
いえ を でる の が あと さんぷん はやければ まにあった んだ けれど。
If I had left the house three minutes earlier, I would have made it in time.
Literally: “house + を + go out + の + が + more + three minutes + if it were early + made it in time + んだ + but.”

Phrase 1 is something that didn't happen:


家を出るのがあと3分早けれ
いえ を でる の が あと さんぷん はやければ
If I had left the house three minutes earlier
Literally: “house + を + go out + の + が + more + three minutes + if it were early”

Phrase 2 is something that would have resulted had Phrase 1 happened:


間に合ったんだけれど
まにあった んだ けれど。
I would have made it in time.
Literally: “made it in time + んだ + but.”

To show that Phrase 1 didn't happen, we are using the ~ば form, putting 早けれ. (If you don't know how to conjugate words into ~ば form, see the previous lesson.)

To also show that we are disappointed that Phrase 1 didn't happen — to show our regret — we put けれど onto the end of Phrase 2. Other phrase-ending particle combos that mean "but" or "although" can also be used here, such asけど、のに、etc.

Combining Phrase 1 and Phrase 2, we get...


家を出るのがあと3分早けれ間に合ったんだけれど
いえ を でる の が あと さんぷん はやければ まにあった んだ けれど。
If I had left the house three minutes earlier, I would have made it in time.
Literally: “house + を + go out + の + が + more + three minutes + if it were early + made it in time + に + fit) + んだ + but.”


As you'll recall from our last lesson, ~ば becomes なら or ならば when it is preceded by a NOUN:


仕事の休みが土日ならもっと友達と遊べるんだけど...。
しごと の やすみ が どにち なら もっと ともだち と あそべる んだ けど...。
If my days off were Saturday and Sunday, I’d be able to hang out with my friends more.
Literally: “work + の + day off + が + if (they) were Saturday-Sunday + more + friends + と + can play / can hang out + んだ + but.”


↑ I used to say this a lot back when I was an English teacher in Tokyo. My days off were Monday and Tuesday! There are some nice things about not working on weekdays, though. Fun places in Tokyo tend to be much less crowded on weekdays.


I've mentioned this time and time again, but in Japan they usually serve food that is super hot by American standards. I burn my tongue all the time. Conversely, half the time I order soup at a restaurant in the U.S., it's hardly hot at all. Maybe they're afraid of getting sued for burning my tongue.

Anyway...


このスープぬるいね。熱々ならもっとおいしいのに
この スープ ぬるい ね。 あつあつ なら もっと おいしい のに。
This soup is lukewarm, huh? It’d taste better if it were piping hot.
Literally: “this + soup + lukewarm / tepid + ね. + if (it) were piping hot + more + tasty / delicious + although (=のに).”


🔥 Level-Up Time 🔥

By far the coolest thing about this usage of ~ば is that when Phrase 2 ends with よかった (was good), the meaning becomes "should have ~."

Like this:


車をとめられるところが見つからない。バスで来れよかった
くるま を とめられる ところ が みつからない。 バス で くれば よかった。
I can’t find anywhere to park my [the] car. I [We] should’ve come by bus.
Literally: “car + を + can park / can stop + place + が + won’t be found. + bus + で + should have come (=if [I’d] come + was good).”

If you want to see a lot more sentences using this pattern, check out this lesson: [NDL #39] - Good, Good, Good to Know.

For example, in that lesson we also saw how to say "shouldn't have ~," as in this sentence:


買わなけれよかった
かさ かわなければ よかった。
I shouldn't have bought an umbrella. // I wish I hadn't bought an umbrella.
Literally: "umbrella + shouldn't have bought (=if [I] hadn't bought + was good)."


There's another usage of ~ば that will be covered in a future N4 lesson... but that I'd also like to mention here.

If you simply end your sentence with ~ば, you can make a (rather blunt) suggestion.

For example, if your friend is looking at a cupcake that's on the table, saying "Ahhhh! I wanna eat this cupcake!" you can say...


食べれ
たべれば?
Why don't you eat it, then? // Eat it, then.
Literally: “if you eat?”

Or maybe you're at Bic Camera, and your friend has spent the last two minutes staring at a video game they want, talking about how badly they want to buy it. You could say...


買え
かえば?
Why don't you buy it, then? // Buy it, then.
Literally: “if you buy?”

If you want to get really fancy, you can use both なら and ~ば in your sentence. For example, you could tell your cupcake-wanting friend:


食べたいなら食べれ
たべたい なら たべれば?
If you want to eat it, why don't you eat it? // If you want to eat it, then eat it.
Literally: “want to eat + if (it is the case that) + if you eat?”

なら is appropriate here because the conditional phrase is based on the words or appearance of the listener (like we saw in this lesson). Then the suggestion itself is using ~ば.

Here's how we'd use these in the second situation:


買いたいなら買え
かいたい なら かえば?
If you want to buy it, why don't you buy it? // If you want to buy it, then buy it.
Literally: “want to buy + if (it is the case that) + if you buy?”

As you can see, getting good at using Japanese conditionals can really improve your communicative ability. Let's try to push through the confusing bits so we can use them in everyday speech.

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