I think I get the differences between the 4 conditionals. But in order to get used to speaking faster, I want to set hard rules for myself regarding when to use each, and not just rely on intuition or feeling it, at least for now. Now I know my way of dividing the usages, is not the only way to divide them, as long as it's one possible way that is not wrong, that's enough for me.

So the way I classified them is like so:

  • If x then y, where y is naturally or inevitably comes 'with' x → xとy
  • If x then y, where y does not happen after x, or for counter-factual statements , or for past habitual actions → ば
    • シカゴに行けば、車で行くよ
    • 雨が降ればよく家で本を読んだものだ
  • If/When x then y, where y happens after x, also when y is one of the following: Suggestion, Invitation, Request, Command, Volitional → たら
    • 嫌いだったら残してください
  • If/If it's true that x then y, or y does not happen after x and y is one of the following: opinion, judgement, suggestion, request, command, volition → なら
    • シカゴへ行くのならバスで行ってください

If I decide in my mind to choose my conditional according to these conditions, will I be wrong? If so, what tweaks do I need to make in order to achieve correct usage? Again, I imagine that native speakers do not use such a scheme, and there may be more than one correct way of deciding which conditional to use when. I'm just trying to come up with a simple way of starting to speak NOT-wrong while avoiding overwhelming myself with the amount of rules for those 4 conditionals as laid out in 'A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar'.

Thank you very much for your help!

  • related : japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/393/…
    – Alox
    Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 8:42
  • I appreciate the link, and I'll go over it. However, ultimately, I'm not looking for another possible explanation of the different uses, rather I'm asking if classifying them like this would be correct.
    – PsyFish
    Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 9:20
  • +1 for the good question you are trying to ask. Native speakers (like myself) would not say the first two sentences in any situations. Those are 「シカゴに行けば、車で行くよ」 and 「雨が降ればよく家で本を読んだものだ」. The second one, a few people MIGHT say but no one would say the first.
    – user4032
    Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 10:58
  • Thanks! Would you not say the first sentence because its structure is wrong?
    – PsyFish
    Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 11:27
  • シカゴへ行けば車で行くよ means "I would go by the car after you go to Chicago". I don't sense any problems about 雨が降ればよく家で本を読んだものだ.
    – user4092
    Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 3:38

1 Answer 1


In order to speak faster, I'd recommend this strategy.

  1. Use "とき" for "when"
  2. Use "A たら B" for "if A, then B (after A)"
  3. Use "A なら B" for "if A, then B (before A)"
  • Thanks for the suggestion, but is it correct gramatically? As long as it's correct, your suggestion is definitely simpler and more elegant than my scheme. But I'm not sure it agrees with all the rules that are outlined in "A Dictionary of Basic Japaese Grammar".
    – PsyFish
    Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 13:25
  • I took these in terms of safty. たら can cover up ~と or ~ば.
    – user4092
    Commented May 7, 2015 at 2:53

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