ば form vs. たら form

webskaer

New Member
America, English
Hello all,

I studied Japanese for a year in school, but now I've graduated and am taking classes in it again. 日本語を学ぶのが大好きなんですよ! The class is starting off a little below what I've studied, but there are some grammar points they use that I have not covered. I feel embarrassed talking to the sensei about it, so I figured I'd give it a shot here.

1. I'm familiar with ~ている as a way to express ongoing action, but what does it mean when いる is in the past tense, as in 「テレビを見ていた。」?

2. I studied ~たら for conditionals and sequences, but in this class they use the ば form in much the same way, and they haven't learned たら. What is the difference between 「花をあげれば、うれしくなります。」 and 「花をあげたら、うれしくなります。」?

Thanks,
Scott
 
  • Captain Haddock

    Senior Member
    Canada, English
    1. 見ていた would mean either "was watching" or "had seen/watched", depending on context. In your case, I think you're saying "I was watching TV".

    2. I can think of a few differences off the topic of my head. One of the Japanese can probably do better.

    〜ば allows for quite general conditional statements, and tends to emphasize the condition, "if I give her a flower…". It thus also implies that if the converse is true — if you don't give her a flower, she won't be happy.

    〜たら conditionals put more emphasis on what follows. Also, there is a time element involved; your friend won't be happy until after you give the flower. たら clauses are often used for simple if/when statements, similar to とき clauses.
     

    divisortheory

    Senior Member
    United States, English
    A good illustration of the difference is to consider the difference between two English constructions:

    a) If I do ~, then ~.
    b) If I were to do ~, then ~.

    They are admittedly quite similar, but in the second one you feel like we're speaking more hypothetically. The first one is more tara-ish, and the second one is more ba-ish. Here's two complete English sentences:

    If I give her a flower, she will love me.
    If I were to give her a flower, she would love me.

    Ignoring the fact that you can still say the first sentence in a hypothetical sense, in pure isolation the first is better translated with ~tara, and the second is better translated with ~ba.

    ~ba is frequently used in the past tense. It can sometimes express a sense of regret over something that didn't happen.

    If I would have given her a flower, she would have loved me.
     

    Captain Haddock

    Senior Member
    Canada, English
    If I had given her a flower, she would have loved me. ;) Proper English uses the subjunctive there.

    花をあげれば、彼女が僕を愛したのに。

    Conditionals in Japanese are remarkably simple, yet hard to get the hang of at first for English speakers.

    One more note: the なら conditional lets you express an outcome in a different timeframe.

    彼女が行ったら、僕も行くぞ。
    彼女が行くなら、僕も行くぞ。

    Both mean something like "if she goes, I'm going", but in the first sentence, I go after she does, and in the second sentence, I go before she does (knowing that she will also be going).
     

    Flaminius

    coclea mod
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    More often than not, -tara and -ba are interchangeable. In order to identify the subtle differences, therefore, I find it necessary to grapple with them from different angles.

    1a. 春が来れば、氷がとける。
    1b. 春が来たら、氷がとける。

    The two sentences convey the same logical bear-to-the-bones meaning; when spring comes, the ice melts. Stylistically, 1b is more casual than 1a, thus one is likely to encounter more -ba than -tara in writing. Another effect of -tara here is that it emphasizes on the anterior-posterior relationship between the two clauses. The content of the subordinate clause happens before that of the main clause. In comparison to 1a, considerable time can intercede between the two events in 1b. Spring comes, then gradually, slowly, with susceptible amount of time elapsing, ice melts away.


    2a. 早く来れば、買えた。 I could have bought the stuff if I had come earlier.
    2b. 8時に来たら、買えた。I came 8 o'clock and could buy the stuff.

    The main clauses are now marked by -ta. The sentence 2a is in modus irrealis; he could not buy the stuff but conjectures that he could have had he come earlier. In contrast, I think it is safe to call 1a modus realis since coming of spring is not a hypothetical condition but a perpetual truth that always results in ice melting away. More ambiguous is 2b. It can be modus irrealis as 2a but also modus realis, meaning that he came to the store 8 o'clock in the morning and could actually buy the stuff. Only context can tell which is meant.


    3a. 身代金を払えば、帰ってよい。 You may go home if you pay your ransom.
    3b. 明日になったら、帰ってよい。 When tomorrow comes, you may go home.

    The 3a suggests that paying his ransom is the only way he can go home; -ba of necessary condition. In contrast, waiting until tomorrow may not be the only way that he can go home in 3b. He can beg, bribe or blackmail the guy to go home but he can go home tomorrow anyway even if all other methods should fail.

    I hope I didn't make additions and detractions as difficult as calculus here. :)

    By the way, we have discussed other conditional particles here. Feel free to continue if you have questions or answers or both for と and なら.
     

    Captain Haddock

    Senior Member
    Canada, English
    2a. 早く来れば、買えた。 I could have bought the stuff if I had come earlier.
    2b. 8時に来たら、買えた。I came 8 o'clock and could buy the stuff.
    I've seen at least one grammar book claim you need to add のに to the end of 2a for it to be correct. Is there anything to that?

    Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but if you add だろう to 2b, the statement becomes hypothetical again, like 2a.
     

    Flaminius

    coclea mod
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    I've seen at least one grammar book claim you need to add のに to the end of 2a for it to be correct. Is there anything to that?
    Certainly -noni can highlight that -ba is used in modus irrealis but it is not exactly mandatory. What makes the sentence a hypothetical diction is -ba in combination with -ta in the main clause. You can find noni-less hypothetical sentences when the speaker finds it rendering too much emotional tone or soft-pedalling: in critical writing or in accusing utterance, for instance.

    Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but if you add だろう to 2b, the statement becomes hypothetical again, like 2a.
    Yes, you can clear the ambiguity of 2b by だろう.
     
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