The below example sentence


is translated (by bunpro) as

If we don't clarify the points of discussion beforehand, we will end up wasting time in the conversation

I don't see how we can get this translation. I'm parsing the grammar like this, with an added 、.

  1. 論点を明らかにした上で、
    After we clarify the points of discussion

  2. 話し合いをしないと、
    if we don't have a discussion,

  3. 時間を無駄にする事になります。
    our time will be wasted!

How can we break down the grammar here to achieve the given English translation. Are we doing something like the below? where the section in [square braces] means "a preliminary discussion clarifying the points of the meeting"? (This seems impossible to me)

[論点を明らかにした上で話し合い] をしないと、時間を無駄にする事になります。

Or perhaps we're just supposed to

2 Answers 2


Think of this like the following English sentence

If we don't discuss and clarify the points of discussion, our time will be wasted.

In English, the negation applies forward negating "discuss and clarify". But, in Japanese, negation applies backwards in the same way.

Now, I've completely glossed over the matter of ...た上で. But this still fits the same pattern.

If we don't discuss after having clarified the points of discussion, our time will be wasted.

The nuance is quite a bit different, but the principle at hand here when recasting into English is quite similar: You need to recognize how the placement of negation in English and Japanese alters the intended meaning.

Often we can loosely translate Japanese in our head while reading it from left to right. But, when we encounter a negation, we should re-evaluate how we've already glossed what we read. (At some point, you'll read these and intuitively understand without having to rethink it at all.) But this is the reason you don't want to start your translation with 論点を明らかにした上で but rather with 話し合いをしない and to recognize that these are both captured within the scope of と (a key point which I think you missed in your first attempt at parsing these phrases).

So, in


The negation essentially negates what precedes it


  • 1
    I can't see the role of 上で in your proposed translation "If we don't discuss and clarify the points of discussion, our time will be wasted". How would you then translate, let's say, 論点を明らかにして話し合いをしないと、時間を無駄にする事になります? I think that 上で is crucial in OP's question, because it adds an element of "temporality" that your loose translation misses imho. The doubt is between [論点を明らかにした上で話し合いをし]ないと時間を無駄にする事になります or 論点を明らかにした上で[話し合いをしないと、時間を無駄にする事になります]
    – jarmanso7
    Nov 22, 2023 at 16:10
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    @jarmanso7 Good point and thank you for pointing out the carelessness with which I left the answer. Let me know what you think of the improvements.
    – A.Ellett
    Nov 22, 2023 at 16:26
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    I think it makes more sense. Actually I've recently just started studying the grammar point た上で, and I find it to be difficult to stick in my mind precisely because the natural order of clauses in Japanese is different than in English for this grammar point.
    – jarmanso7
    Nov 22, 2023 at 16:38
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    Shin Kanzen Master N2
    – jarmanso7
    Nov 22, 2023 at 16:41
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    → Bunpro translation using ‘beforehand’. Adding ‘only’ is one workaround to try to wrangle the meaning into a fairly direct translation, but it’s not very elegant, and makes the restriction more explicit than it is in Japanese. I think the better option is to switch the order of clarifying and discussing (incidentally bringing them back into alignment with the Japanese order) and using ‘before’ instead: “If we don’t clarify the points before having the discussion, we will end up wasting time”. Nov 23, 2023 at 11:42

Your understanding of each clause is perfect, but you have to reorder them like 2→1→3 for the sentence to make sense in English. Note that 上で is a modifier that 話し合いをする, and this entire combination is in the if-clause.

A literal translation would be:


If we don't have a discussion after we clarify the points of discussion, our time will be wasted!

  • 1
    Your English translation is how I translated it when I read it! This implies that given we have clarified the points of discussion to not have a meeting following this would mean we had wasted our time (clarifying the points of discussion). --- I suppose the intended meaning of the Japanese is given we are going to have a meeting, to not clarify the points of discussion beforehand would mean we will waste our time (during the meeting).
    – doliphin
    Nov 22, 2023 at 15:57
  • @doliphin I'm not so sure the intended meaning in Japanese is "given we are going to have a meeting, not to clarify the points of discussion beforehand would mean we will waste our time (during the meeting)" and actually after reading naruto's I'd say he proposed the English translation to convey what he thinks the sentence means in Japanese, not to highlight that it actually means something else. But I'm not sure.
    – jarmanso7
    Nov 22, 2023 at 16:15
  • Perhaps unclear in my original post, but the translation I provided is not my own. It is an example sentence from bunpro (my first time coming across the site).
    – doliphin
    Nov 22, 2023 at 16:42

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