Hey guys today we are going to be looking at learning “If” in Japanese. It’s a fairly big subject as there are 5 different ways for us to express “if” in Japanese, all with slightly different nuances.

Learning how to use “IF” in Japanese: 5 different ways

If you listen to us, you can definitely master it. If you go now, you might just make it. If you were me, what would you do? “If” sentences are massively useful to have in your arsenal when it comes to effective communication and you will not be able to progress much further without knowing how to use this awesome conjunction.

It can seem quite confusing as to why there are 5 different “if’s” in Japanese, と (to), ても (temo), ば (ba), なら (nara) and たら (tara) which all translate into the one word “if” in English. Don’t worry, eventually you will get used to it and be able to use it like a pro. Now … If you’re ready, let’s get started … If you want!

Today we are going to look at 5 types of “IF”. The first of which is: Tara たら.

Japanese Conditional Form たら

Tara たら Is the master of all IF conjunctions as it is pretty much interchangeable in most If situations. It doesn’t really have many regulations, so it is certainly a good option if you are unsure on which “if” to use in your Japanese sentences.

So let’s take a closer look at how we form verbs and adjectives with in the たら form.

For affirmative verbs you should first conjugate the verb to the た form and simply add ら

たべる - たべた - たべたら

For affirmative い adjectives you should first conjugate the adjective into the た form and simply add ら

むずかしい - むずかしかった - むずかしかったら

For affirmative な adjectives you should first conjugate the adjective into the た form and simply add

かんたん ― かんたんだった ― かんたんだったら

For the negative form, you simply change the verb or adjective into the NAI form remove the い and add なかった。

So let’s take a look at some of these conjugations in action followed by a few sentences.

If you don’t study
If it’s not easy
If you work

Here are a few sentences so you can see たら in action.

If you don’t study, you won’t be able to pass the test.
If you work, you will earn money.

So there we have it that is the たら form. It’s fairly straightforward to use and can be used in most “If” situations. Now we will take a look at the conditional (ば)

So let’s take a closer look at how we form verbs and adjectives with in the ば form.

The conditional form

The ば form indicates that the preceding clause expresses a condition.

For Group 1, Group 2, and Irregular Verbs you change the final うfor えば

いく - いけば

For いadjectives you change the final い with ければ

むずかしい - むずかしければ

For な adjectives you change だ with ならば

かんたんだ - かんたんならば.

For the negative version you change to the ない form, remove the いand add なければならない

When the verb or adjective is in this negative form it can mean “unless”.

Let’s take a look at some of these conjugations in actions and some more example sentences.

Unless you go
If it’s easy
If you read
If you read this book, you will understand.
If it’s easy, I will try to do it.
Unless you go, I won’t go.

Now we are going to look at the next IF which is と To


Japanese Conditional Form

The particle と has many, many uses and one of those is to express “IF”.  “と” specifically is used to express inevitability. In other words, it expresses things that are bound to happen if something else happens, like a process.

For example:

If you press this button, the TV will turn on.

It is inevitable that if you press the button the TV will turn on as it’s a common process. This is a great example of where you can use とto express “IF”.

It can also be used with inevitability in the case of weather.

If winter comes it will get cold.

Another way in which you can use と to express IF in Japanese is when you have to give directions.

If you got straight, the library will be on the left.

So remember with とyou can use it to express inevitability in process and nature, as well as giving directions.

Great, so that is 3 down and 2 to go! If you are still craving more “If’s” let’s move on to the next one.

Japanese Conditional Form なら

Nara is pretty easy to get to grips with as it pretty much like “If that’s the case in English”.

To use nara with verbs you simply add it after the plain form of a verb:

If Ben goes, I’ll also go

With adjectives, simply add nara after both い and な adjectives:

If it’s difficult, I cant do it

When using with nouns, simply add it onto the end of the noun:

In the case that it is the kanji, I can read it.

So as you can see this “IF” is really easy to use grammatically and can come in extremely useful … IF you want to use it! So now we are going to move over to our final “IF” Just get through this last one and you will be the IF master.


Japanese Conditional Form ても

Temo てもis slightly different in the way that it expresses “if”. ても equates to, “even if”.

Even if I fail, I won’t give up

Let’s take a look at how to use this grammar point with adjectives, nouns and verbs.

For verbs, change the verb into the て form and then add も

Benkyou suru
To study
Benkyou shite
Study (Command)
Benkyou shitemo
Even if I study

For い adjectives take off the い and add ても

Even if it’s difficult.

For な adjectives simply add でも

Kantan Demo
Even if it’s easy

Lastly for nouns simply add でも

Neko demo
Even if it’s a cat

So guys there we have it, 5 different ways to use “IF” in Japanese. We know it’s a lot to take in at one time but our advice to you is to take them on one at a time and write out as many practice sentences as you can. This way you will build up lots of experience using each specific case and thus learn to differentiate them in your mind instinctively.

It can be very confusing with so many different “If” scenarios. If you keep going, you will certainly be able to master them all. 

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