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The way I thought of past tense working with なら was that if X had happened in the past, then Y would have resulted. For example,

車ががけから落ちていたなら彼らは死んでいただろう。

They would have been killed if the car had gone over the cliff.

However, there are times where I feel that past tense with なら doesn't always work that way.

もう一度奈良を訪れたなら私は4回訪れたことになります。

If I visit Nara again, I will have visited it four times.

I don't see how this sentence works if we that is how past tense works with なら. If so, then なります should be なりました instead to reflect something like "If I had visited Nara again, I would have visited it four times." When a past tense of a verb works with なら, does it indicate what would have happened if a particular event occurred in the past, or does it indicate a general result if a particular event occurs, regardless of when it happens? Right now, from the translation of "If I visit Nara again, I will have visited it four times," I don't see a difference between もう一度奈良を訪れたなら私は4回訪れたことになります and もう一度奈良を訪れれば私は4回訪れたことになります.

  • Why do you think the Nara example needs to be understood differently? It is again simply "Had I visited Nara once more I would have visited four times". The なる being "present tense" here is a bit of a red herring in that it's related to the common ~たことがある expression for experience. – Brandon Sep 15 '15 at 13:17
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I think this question is quite difficult. It has a few points.

Firstly, "になります。" is different from "become". In this context, "4回訪れたことになります。" is equivalent to "4回訪れた計算になります。." It rather means "evaluate or calculate." In this case, the moment of evaluation is general.

So, sometimes, なる。 and なった。 are almost equivalent. But, sometimes they have a little difference.

また死体が見つかったぞ。やつは3人殺したことになる。

また死体が見つかったぞ。やつは3人殺したことになった。

(Both) We’ve found another dead body. The one has killed three in total.

They are basically the same, but there is a slight difference. The former says, "If you count the number, it is three." but the latter is "If you have counted the number at this moment, it is three." So, the latter expects there would be more victims.

やつは3人殺すことになる。 (The future is determined. He is doomed to kill three. Or, an author of a book knows it.)

やつは3人殺すことになった。 (He just got a curse. Now, He is doomed to kill three. Or, he was just ordered to execute three.)

For more realistic cases, imagine a soccer game. Before a game, you can say 「5点は取ることになるね。(They will score at least five.)」, and while the game,「3点差になりました! (Now they are three points ahead.)」.

Secondly, た basically means completion rather than past. I think French is the same. "I ate" is "J'ai mangé" ("I have eaten." in literal.) Also, it has several meanings.

In English, “If I were a bird, I can fly.” doesn’t mean ‘Condition: I was a bird.’ た and “if” or “when” have similar, but a little bit different effect.

話が出た時点で考えよう

話が出る時点で考えよう

(Both) Let’s think when we talk about it.

The former is not sure if they will talk about it. The latter is almost sure that they will talk about it.

今度会ったとき話すよ

今度会うとき話すよ

(Both) I will tell you when we see next time.

The latter sounds the next time is already scheduled. The former is unsure about when it is.

I think this present form is similar to the English present form. “My flight is at ten.”

Similar thing, happen to “なら”

車ががけから落ちていたなら彼らは死んでいただろう。

They would have been killed (not happened) if the car had gone over the cliff (not happened).

車ががけから落ちているなら彼らは死んでいただろう。

Judging from the car gone over the cliff, they should be dead at that time.

In former case, the car did not go over. In latter case, it did.

車ががけから落ちていたなら彼らは死んでいるだろう。

If the car went over the cliff (not sure), they are dead now.

車ががけから落ちているなら彼らは死んでいるだろう。

If the car has gone over the cliff, they are dead.

Now, let’s get back to the original sentence.

もう一度奈良を訪れたなら私は4回訪れたことになります。

If I visit Nara again (which is not sure), you can evaluate that I’ve visited it four times.

もう一度奈良を訪れれば私は4回訪れたことになります.

If I visit Nara again, you can evaluate that I’ve visited it four times.

The latter is not much different from the former, but yet I feel the speaker is slightly more confident about visiting Nara again.

もう一度奈良を訪れたなら私は4回訪れたことになりました。

If I visit Nara again (which is impossible), you would evaluate that I’ve visited it four times.

2

I'm not sure where your confusion is coming from, but since nobody is answering I would like to offer some examples so it might help clarify your problem.

At least in my bilingual mind, it seems to work like this. I'm interested how others may conceptualize (or theorize!) differently, though.

落ちたなら〜

落ちていた なら、死んでいた だろう
If it had fallen, it would have been dead

落ちた なら、死んだ だろう
If it fell, it would have died

落ちる なら、死ぬ だろう
If it falls, it will die

This corresponds to English pretty cleanly, in that you can similarly mix the tenses, for instance:

落ちたなら、死ぬだろう
If it fell, it will die

落ちていたなら、死んだだろう
If it had fallen, it would have died

訪れたなら〜

In the case of your other example, you might be able to see why 「〜ことになります」 does not become 「〜ことになりました」. The “it would be that” part doesn't change:

もう一度 訪れていた なら、4回 訪れていた ことになる
If I had visited once more, it would be that I had visited four times

もう一度 訪れた なら、4回 訪れた ことになる
If I visited once more, it would be that I have visited four times

もう一度 訪れる なら、4回 訪れた* ことになる
If I visit once more, it would be that I visited four times

The irregularity I feel is actually in the last sentence, where I don't think anybody would say 「もう一度訪れるなら、4回 訪れる ことになる」. Also, I personally don't think there is a meaningful difference between “it would be that I visited” and “it would be that I have visited” in this kind of sentence. Maybe that has something to do with it.

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