Phrases involving verb-ばいい occur frequently and yet I can't find it mentioned in any of my grammar resources. I understand that literally it means "if I do verb, it is good" but that rarely works as a sensible translation. The sentence that caused my question is


Which I'm translating as

I tried inquiring as to how I should address him but, ...

It confused me because, whilst it isn't a wild step to go from ' if you do x it will be good' to 'you should do x', putting the question word なんと at the front makes that simple logic fail.

So my question is what is the general grammar for verb-ばいい (with and without question words)? What range of meanings can this phrase have? Also, can I replace いい with よくない to invert the meanings? Thanks.


1 Answer 1


In my experience, Japanese uses this ~ばいい WAY more than we would in English. Textbooks and what-not break it down by saying "if you do ~, it's good" because it helps you grasp the concept quickly and allows you to break the sentence up into understandable chunks. When trying to translate something like this into natural English, however, you will often find this grammar (translated literally like this) does not make sense. So, you're correct in this case.

I often just translate it as...
"It's fine to ~."
"I'm all right with you ~."
"I should ~."
And much more, but it always depends on the context.

In this case, I'd personally go with something like...

"I tried asking what he would like to be called, but..."

But it's up to you. You can do as you see fit based on the whole context, the character of the speaker, etc, etc

As always, I'm never sure I'm 100% right. So, if you or anyone else coming on here knows more on the subject and finds I'm incorrect, please post a different answer. We are all still learning. I hope though, that this helps the OP understand just a bit better. :)

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