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So I'm reading Genki II where they introduce なら. There's a dialogue which has the following context: a guy asks his female friend Kyouko to cover for him at work (he's an English teacher). The friend is hesitant and says:

  • 私、英語を教えたことがないし、できない。 to which the guy answers:
  • 大丈夫だよ。ぼくより英語が上手だし、きょうこさんなら出来るよ

What is the literal meaning of this? "You're better at English than I am, so if it's you, you can"? This makes literally zero sense. So I suspect it actually has the meaning of "If there's someone who can do it, it's you" but even if my assumption is correct, I still can't see how なら logically fits into this.

Then there's also another dialogue example. Context: a guy and a girl are in a fitness store. They see a fitness machine and are discussing it:

Guy: このフィットネスマシンはどうですか。

Girl: 便利そうですね。

Guy: ええ、このマシンなら、家で運動できますよ。

I've read all I could find on the Internet about なら and while some examples make sense, I still don't understand it in actual, unadapted real-life sentences, even as simple as these ones. What does it mean in the above dialogue? "If it's this machine, you can use it at home"? Surely that's not correct.

Thanks in advance.

  • Are you sure the second sentence says 大丈夫よ? That would sound feminine, but then there's ぼく. The neutral would be 大丈夫だよ. – Aeon Akechi Jul 28 '15 at 2:46
  • Oh, you're right, it was actually だよ, I didn't notice. Good observation, thanks. Gonna edit the post. – Aleksander Jul 28 '15 at 2:53
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They like to teach なら as "if", but just like all the other words corresponding to "if" in Japanese, in reality this actually has a "when A then B" kind of meaning, which is broader than a simple "if A then B".

In your first example, what the second sentence really means is:

  • "Don't worry! Your English is much better than mine, so for you it should be a piece of cake."

Here なら is used to mark Kyoko as a possible candidate for the action of teaching English, and then say what would happen if she, of all people, did that. The implied suggestion is that if it were the speaker, he would do a pretty poor job.

Similarly, in the second example なら comments on this machine as opposed to other possible machines, with which it wouldn't be possible to work out at home:

  • "Yes, when you have this machine you can work out at home".

The reason なら is used here is because there is an idea of choice: you're saying what would happen if one choice were made, and implying that with other choices some else would happen.

AならB is best thought of not as "if A, then B", but as "under the assumption that A has become a reality, B". It's commonly used for making some sort of assumption, in contrast to other alternatives.

  • thanks! I think I understand it a little better now. So the second example would be then translated as something like "yeah, with this one you can work out at home"? – Aleksander Jul 28 '15 at 8:03
  • That's right. I edited the message to add another way of translating it. – Sunlight Jul 28 '15 at 8:06

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