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もしも君にめぐり逢えたら
二度と君の手を離さない

I would translate this to:

Even if I could meet you by chance,
I would never leave your hand a second time.

That is because of the following analysis: moshi, if; mo, even; kimi, you; ni, preposition required by meguriau; meguriaetara, -tara form of potential of meguriau, meet by chance; nido to, a second time; kimi, you; no, possessive particle; te, hand; wo, object marker; hanasanai, negative present of hanasu, let go of. Trouble is, I've seen translations of this, which is from Time After Time by Mai Kuraki, which translate it more or less as:

Even if I had met you by chance,
I would not have left your hand a second time.

But if hanasanai is present, why should I translate it with a past conditional? Wouldn't it make more sense to translate it as a present one? It is true that -tara contains the past suffix -ta, but so what? Does it necessarily imply a past action? And if so, why use the present in the apodosis?

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past conditionalの訳(下の訳)は、間違えていると思います。present tense の訳(上の訳)でいいと思います。 –  Choko Aug 10 at 12:40
    
To avoid having to look for it every time I read this: 訳=わけ=translation, 間違える=まちがえる=to be wrong. –  MickG Aug 10 at 12:49
    
I thought so too. But then why does this site use the past conditional? Anyone has any idea? –  MickG Aug 10 at 12:50
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In some languages, e.g. Latin, that is true. In others, as Romanian and (maybe, I'm not sure) slavic ones, conditional is used in both halves. In English, like in Romance languages, it is if+subjunctive, and conditional. In German, besides the names which are strange, we have the present conditional, but then there is this use of the past Konjunktiv II instead of a past conditional, as Wikipedia says, which is strange to me. One should look into Old German to know the reason for this. Influence of Latin? Reminiscence of old use? Who knows. –  MickG Aug 11 at 8:34
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Another thing to say is that the conditional is subjunctive (alias past) of will plus infinitive, so if one really wants to see subjunctives in both halves, well, that is how :). –  MickG Aug 11 at 8:36

1 Answer 1

up vote 3 down vote accepted

But if hanasanai is present, why should I translate it with a past conditional?

You shouldn't.

Wouldn't it make more sense to translate it as a present one?

Indeed. Or a future tense.

It is true that -tara contains the past suffix -ta, but so what? Does it necessarily imply a past action?

No. The -ta is aspectual, i.e. it explains what will happen "after having met" you. It works because 君の手を離さない happens after 君にめぐり逢えた.

The distinction of aspect and tense is subtle in Japanese, but as a very rough rule, I usually say that -ta (etc.) expresses past tense in matrix verbs, i.e. main clauses (usually the last verb in Japanese sentences), and perfective aspect in other positions (subclauses, relative clauses etc).

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Perfect, just as I thought. Damn animelyrics confusing me :). Thanks. –  MickG Aug 11 at 7:50
    
Are there cases where the "rough rule" leads to errors? –  MickG Aug 11 at 13:59
    
@MickG, there's lots of cases where breaking the rule is at least an option, such as "past tense commands" (どいたどいた!) and historical present (史的現在). –  dainichi Aug 12 at 0:40

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