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Differences among -たら、なら、-んだったら、-えば, etc.

There are different ways to say "if" in Japanese. I want to concentrate on these two verb endings which mean "if": たら and ば. What exactly are the similarities and differences between these two? I have heard that in some situations, you should be careful to use one and not the other. Which situations are those? Are there some sentences where they are interchangeable and the meaning doesn't change?

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please don't upvote and answer duplicates. –  repecmps Jun 4 '11 at 5:21
It's not a duplicate. The other question is too broad. The answerer in here said things that other answerers missed in the other question because it was too broad. –  language hacker Jun 4 '11 at 8:44
Now all the references about the conditional form in Japanese are grouped inside the other thread, including the nice answer below. It's better for everyone to have all these information grouped in one place. –  repecmps Jun 4 '11 at 9:05
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marked as duplicate by repecmps, YOU, Troyen, Dori Jun 4 '11 at 5:45

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1 Answer

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Yeah, these are not so easy as there is a complex set of conditions and circumstances where you can use one over the other. I'll try to cover the most common usages and differences.

~ば is used in the case of a consistent relationship of cause and effect.

For example:

合格すれば、卒業が出来ます (goukaku sureba, sotsu gyou ga dekimasu) If I pass I can graduate.

雨が降れば、試合が中止になります (ame ga fureba, shiai ga chuushi ni narimasu) If it rains the match will be cancelled.

It can also be used for hypothetical statements, such as 明日もし雨が降れば、テレビを見ましょうか? (moshi ame ga fureba, tereba wo mimashouka?) If it rains tomorrow, shall we watch tv?

It should generally not be followed by an expression of a wish, desire or command, and never by an action that has completed.

On the other hand, ~たら is usually used to indicate a particular condition being satisfied and it CAN be followed by an expression indicating a wish, desire or command, or followed by an action that has completed.

For example:

パチスロに着いたら電話ちょうだい (pachisuro ni tsuitara denwa choudai) Please give me a call when you get to Pacinko!

Or used with a completed action: 焼酎の瓶を飲んだら、歩けなくなった (shouchuu no bin wo nondara, arukenaku natta) I was unable to walk after drinking the bottle of shochu.

Or like ~ば it can be followed by a hypothetical statement: 明日もし雨が降ったら、テレビを見ましょうか? (moshi ame ga futtara, tereba wo mimashouka?) If it rains tomorrow, shall we watch tv?

Just to boggle us further, there is ~と (more similar to ~ば) and ~なら which is a long conversation all by itself.

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you don't want to answer a duplicate (it's a waste of a good text you wrote). Post it under the appropriate question: japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/393/differences-among-etc –  repecmps Jun 4 '11 at 5:20
Thx, will do. Whilst I was typing my answer it got flagged! Doh –  crunchyt Jun 4 '11 at 5:55
what would happen if you used a request with ーば? –  language hacker Jun 4 '11 at 8:43
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