526 - ~ても (even if)

JLPT N4: ~ても (even if)

Generally speaking, ending a verb with ~ても means "even if VERB."

Consider the following example:

わたし は ロボット なので、 いちにちじゅう はたらいても つかれません。
I am a robot, so even if I work all day, I do not become tired.
Literally: “I + は + robot + なので (=because), + all day long + even if work + do not become tired.”

In case you didn't know, we conjugate Vても by taking a verb in the て-form and adding も:

働く(はたらく // to work
働いて(はたらいて // work [and]
働いても(はたらいても // even if [one] works

In other lessons, you'll see that ~ても shows up in sentences that do not contain the words "even" or "if" in English. For example:

これ を たべても いい です か。
May I eat this?
Literally: “this + を + even if (I) eat + good + ですか.”

Once more, we see the て-form in action here:

食べる(たべる // to eat
食べて(たべて // eat [and]
食べても(たべても // even if [one] eats
食べてもいい(たべてもいい // may eat; is allowed to eat

~てもいい is actually a topic for another N4 lesson, but I thought it was worth mentioning here because it illustrates how it's usually OK to think of ~ても as "even if." Instead of saying, "May I eat...?" we can say "Is it good/OK even if I eat...?"

But let's get back on point. We're not looking at ~てもいい in this lesson; we're just looking at ~ても.

Although in simple terms we can say that Vても just means "even if VERB," there are a number of grammatical labels that we can give to the situations in which Vても occurs.

For example, that sentence we saw earlier? One of my grammar books would say that this is "Something that naturally should occur does not (paradoxical supposition):"

わたし は ロボット なので、 いちにちじゅう はたらいても つかれません。
I am a robot, so even if I work all day, I do not become tired.
Literally: “I + は + robot + なので (=because), + all day long + even if work + do not become tired.”

Working all day should cause one to get tired, but in this case it does not... because the speaker is a robot.

For me, just thinking "even if I work" for 働いても is enough. But if you're feeling fancy, feel free to use these grammatical labels.

You'll also quite commonly see ~ても used in negative answers to questions using conditionals (=questions using the word "if"). That is, you'll see ~ても used in negative answers to questions using the conjugations Vたら, Vば, etc.

たからくじ で たいきん が あたったら、 しごと を やめますか。
Would you quit your job if you won the lottery?
Literally: “lottery + で + a lot of money + が + if won (~if hit on), + job + を + quit + か.”

いいえ、 わたし は いま の しごと が だいすき なので、 たからくじ が あたっても やめません。
No. I love my current job, so even if I won the lottery, I wouldn’t quit.
Literally: “no, + I + は + now + の + job + が + love + なので (=because), + lottery + が + even if won (~even if hit on) + won’t quit.”

当たる(あたる // to win
当たって(あたって // to win [and]
当たっても(あたっても // even if [one] wins

Another way of phrasing this is: When a question says: "If you blah blah blah, would you blah blah blah?"

...then you can answer with: "No, even if I blah blah blah, I wouldn't blah blah blah."

To make things a little trickier, sometimes ~ても will be closer to "even though" than "even if."

This is because we can also use ~ても when we are talking about facts (and not hypothetical situations/suppositions):

ノニジュース は ドブ の ような あじ が します が、 まずくても、 けんこう の ために まいあさ のんでいます。
Noni juice tastes like gutter water. But even though it tastes bad, I drink it every morning for my health.
Literally: “noni juice + は + dirty, gross water + の + like (=ような) + flavor + が + does + but (=が), even though (it’s) bad-tasting, + health + の + for the sake of (=ために) + every morning + am drinking.”

I've never actually tried Noni juice, but from the viewpoint of this speaker, we can say it is a fact that it tastes bad. So our sentence gets translated as "even though it tastes bad..."

Worth noting here is that we used an i-adjective to form ~ても and not a verb:

まずくて(bad-tasting [and]
まずくても(even if [s.t. is] bad-tasting

Similarly, ~ても can be formed by putting でも (demo) after na-adjectives and nouns. Something to remember. And something that we'll see in our next conversation...

Here we see that it is also possible to use ~ても meaning "even if" when asking a question:

らいげつ の キャンプ は、 あし が ふじゆう でも さんか できますか。
Is it possible for someone to participate in next month’s camping trip even ifthey’re physically disabled [even if they have trouble walking]?
Literally: “next month + の + camping + は, + legs + が + disability / impairment + even if (=でも) + participation / joining + can do + か.”
Note: I had trouble translating 足が不自由 as a single sentence because this could refer both to someone who is, for example, in a wheelchair and to a person who just needs a cane to walk.

ええ、 じゆう に あるけなくても、 くるまいす で さんか できます よ。
Yes, (even) if you cannot walk, you can participate in a wheelchair.
Literally: “yes, + freely + に + even if cannot walk, + wheelchair + で + participation + can do + よ.”

This conjugation might have been a bit tricky for some of you because we are putting 歩く into the potential form:

歩く(あるく // to walk
歩ける(あるける // to be able to walk
歩けない(あるけない // cannot walk
歩けなくて(あるけなくて // cannot walk [and]
歩けなくても(あるけなくても // even if [one] cannot walk

Leveling Up

In informal speech, you'll sometimes see ~ても changed in the following ways:

~ても → ~たって
~でも → ~だって

Instead of using the て-form, ~たって and ~だって are formed by taking the plain past tense of verbs (=Vた) and adding って.

For example, here is what happens with the verb する:

する(to do
したって(even if [one] did

And now a full-sentence example:

この ビン の ふた が、 なに を したって あかない んです。
The lid to this jar won’t open no matter what I do.
Literally: “this + jar / bottle + の + lid + が, + what + を + even if (you) do (=したって) + won’t open + んです.”
Note: Pay attention to how "even if I do what" is becoming "no matter what I do" in natural English.

I know what some of you are thinking: Didn't you just say that ~たって is used in informal language? This sentence ends in です; isn't that formal?

Yeah, about that... uh, maybe I should have said "conversational language" instead of "informal language?" Or perhaps "relatively casual language." For instance, you won't hear someone using ~たって in an announcement on a train, which would require very formal language, but it would not be a big deal to use ~たって when (politely) chatting with your coworker who entered the company a few years before you.

One more example, this time with ~だって, and then you can move on with your life, friend...

そんな むちゃ な たのみ、 だれ に たのんだって ことわられますよ。
Anyone would refuse such a ridiculous request.
Literally: “that kind of + unreasonable + request, + who + に + even if (you) requested (=頼んだって) + be turned down + よ.”

頼む(たのむ // to request
頼んだ(たのんだ // requested
頼んだって(たのんだって // even if [one] requested

Feeling a bit overwhelmed by this sentence? I'm guessing that the verb at the end is a little tricky for many, since it's in the passive form. But don't worry! We'll cover passive verb forms in a future N4 lesson.

Also, just remember that the tricky sentences will make sense someday. All we have to do is consistently improve day after day. If you keep your head down in your studies, eventually you'll look up and see a world (in Japanese) that makes a lot of sense. ^^

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