I'm starting my JLPT N1 study, but am already running into roadblocks just reading the example sentences which is rather embarrassing. The way things are going, I'll have many more questions in the future.

Any English is my translation

Pick the most suitable word to fill in the blank.

今度の選挙に落選した(  )、二度と政界に戻れないだろう。

1)が最後  2)が早いか  3)ものなら  4)とたんに

The correct answer is 1, but I don't really see how it works. My language parser fails. My first guess was 3 because then it would read something like "The ones who lost this election will probably not be able to go back to politics again."

The official explanation:

では、まず(  )の前後のことがら(「落選した」と「政界に戻れない」)の関係を考え、さらに文末の「〜だろう」から、未来の予測を表している文だと考えます。「落選した」という動詞の形につく文法形式であることも重要です。正しい答えは「1 が最後」です。

I would translate that as

If you first consider the phrases around the blank, "failed to be elected" and "won't be able to go back to politics", and then notice the 〜だろう at the end, you can tell that this implies a prediction about the future. The grammatical form of the "failed to be elected" verb is important as well. The correct answer is #1.

I can't say that helps me any. Any explanation would be very much appreciated.

  • 1
    もの in ものなら does not mean "the ones". – l'électeur Jul 18 '15 at 22:40

Choices two and four are out immediately because they both essentially mean "the moment ~ happens / as soon as ~", and the translation would not even make sense.

  • As soon as I lost the election, I'll likely never return to the political world/scene.

Both clauses make sense, but put together like that just makes a nonsense statement.

Now choices one and three could both make sense, but it comes down to knowing syntax and specifics about the grammar. In my grammar book*, there are two patterns containing ~ものなら; both are suppositions (obviously).


This basically means If ~ were possible, .... So far, choice three is still in the running. However, here is the kicker:

「~ものなら」の前には可能の意味を含む動詞が来る。そして実現が難しそうなことを、「もしできるなら」と仮定して、後の文で希望や命令など話す人の意志を表す。  動詞の辞書形+ものなら → The verb coming before 「~ものなら」 is one that includes the meaning of possibility. Assuming a hard-to-actualize situation, the latter part of the sentence expresses the speaker's desires or command.

There are several clues that eliminate this pattern. Most obvious is that 落選した is neither in the dictionary form, nor a potential verb. Also, I would say that the 文末 does not express the speakers 希望 because of the included だろう, but that's already a moot point.


Now, I don't think 二度と政界に戻れないだろう is a 大変なこと (debatable), but the syntax again doesn't match up; we would need しよう but we have した. So this pattern is also eliminated.

So that just leaves us with choice #1.

~が最後・~たら最後 【「最後」という言葉の示すとおり、「~のようなことをしたら、もうすべてがだめになる、最後だ」という気持ちが強い。】

動詞の~た形+が最後 or 動詞の~たら形+最後

First off, I'd say that 二度と政界に戻れないだろう is more だめ than 大変. But between choices #1 and #3, only this one has the correct syntax. Some (many?) times on the higher level tests (N2 and N1), the correct choice for a grammar question is not simply knowing the general meaning, but like here, knowing the correct syntactical formation, as well as the distinct usage nuances. That's why it's N1! Hope this helps.

All examples and definitions taken from どんな時どう使う日本語表現文型500 中・上級

  • I think that makes sense. What tripped me up with ものなら is that I was thinking of もの as 者, and the conveniently dropping the なら. Thanks for the detailed explanation. I'll take a look at that book as well. – Anonymous Jul 18 '15 at 17:47
  • Here's an updated version of the book. The version I have is a bit older (1・2級 of the old JLPT system), but I'm sure the contents are fairly similar. – istrasci Jul 18 '15 at 21:36
  • It might be fair to say there is an implied で following 最後, thus forming a logical conjunction. – Derpius Apr 20 '16 at 19:28

I guess giving advice is a no-no here, but if you haven't already read a novel or two in Japanese, doing so now would help get patterns of usage into your head.

Also, see if your idiomatic grammar text has an entry on 「…が最後」。 It's very likely to show up in the test, and you want to get it right.

That said,


is a negative result (loosely speaking) of some finality. And


is something negative that occurred. 「…が最後…」 is an idiomatic way of connecting negative incidents and occasions with negative results of some finality. 「…ものなら…」 is not.

A similar sentence with 「ものなら」 might be


But it would be a bit like something a 漫才師 would say, because it plays against the usual usage patterns. Don't study this sentence for the N1 unless you understand what I mean by against pattern. It could trip you up.

(afterthought) And, as you can see, Chocolate thinks it sounds too weird. Maybe I shouldn't reach so far to show how the trap answer just doesn't fit. Refer to Chocolate's comments for why you wouldn't want to actually use that sentence. (end-afterthought)

  • 1
    「今度の選挙に落選するものなら、もう、外国旅行に出かけるが良いじゃないか?」 sounds strange and makes little sense. 「出かけるが良い」 is grammatically incorrect, too (unless you mean 出かけろ. 「終止形動詞+がよい」= 命令). You could say 「...落選するくらいなら ~~出掛けたほうがいいんじゃないか」 instead. – Chocolate Jun 29 '17 at 1:58
  • まあ、そんな文句では漫才師の気分にはなれなかったわ。 :) – Joel Rees Jun 29 '17 at 2:14

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