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I'm watching an episode with subtitle that goes:

「俺 ずっと お前が生きてさえいてくれたら と思ってた」

"I always thought, as long as you live on, (I'm ok)"

I have three questions if the translation was correct.

  • Is the "live on / stay alive" meaning provided by (生きて)いる? If yes what does くれる add to this scene, "stay alive for me"?
  • Why is さえ in the middle between 生きる and いる?
  • Can さえ go with たら? Textbook says it always goes with ば

2 Answers 2

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In order:

  • The pure "live on/stay alive" meaning comes from 生きている. The specific nuance of くれる depends on context, but it implies that living on is favourable in some way from the point of view of the speaker.
  • さえ emphasizes 生きる, so that's what it attaches to.
  • Don't believe everything textbooks say. They often simplify things to focus on a specific point. さえ can go with lots of things.

See here for more on さえ.

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  • Thanks! I have a few follow-ups if you don't mind. 1. So くれる is not always "do sth for me" but cloud be just a way to hint the attitude? 2. It would look like "live-as-long-as-on" for me, but the subject of "as long as" should be "live on", is this a custom usage of さえ? 3. In the weblio examples it does follow the さえ…ば pattern, so I'm wondering whether using たり instead of 仮定(〜えば)is universal or it is yet another custom usage? Thanks again.
    – dz902
    Oct 29, 2023 at 11:38
  • @dz902 1. Everything in Japanese depends on context, and that applies to くれる. It could range from "I'd rather you stay alive" or "It'd be nice if you stayed alive" to "(I couldn't live without you so) please do me the favour of staying alive", or even "You're worth more to me alive", although that last one isn't very likely in this particular instance. 2. Using さえ〜たら isn't especially are or slightly out of the ordinary, even if さえ〜ばis slightly more common. Which gets used depends more on the mood of the speaker and the flow of the sentence, I think.
    – Philippe
    Oct 30, 2023 at 13:58
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Philipe has answered, but I will expand on 2.

This is not an example of さえ + Verb‐ば, here さえ is being used to add some extra nuance to 生きて. The ーて form of verbs and adjectives can be freely followed by the various markers は, も, さえ, など, なんか, ばかり, でも, しか, こそ, のみ, すら to add focus, restriction, emphasis etc. Some examples:

あなたのご親切に頼ってしか生きていけない Only by relying on your kindness can I live on.

法は大多数の人に守られてこそ法の価値がある Law has its value precisely because it is upheld by the majority of people.

それだけの金をかけてまでなぜ難工事のトンネルを掘らねばならないのか Why is it that they have to go to the extent of spending so much money to build a difficult-to-engineer tunnel?

Some examples with ーている:

運動しないで寝てばかりいた身には風呂は応えた His body, having done nothing but lie around without exercise, felt the effect of the hot bath.

起きてだけはいますがまだ歩けません I am on my feet, at least, but I still can't walk.

As discussed elsewhere (here), one meaning of さえ is 'only, just', so the quoted sentence in your example sentence means

'if you [do me the favour of] only/just staying alive/continuing to live'

In the ーたらと思っていた construction, いい has been elided after ーたら, ーたらいい being a common way to express a hope or wish, 'I wished/hoped that you would keep living/stay alive for me...'.

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