So in my N4 textbook, I have the following explanation for a grammatical construct:

Noun + なら:
Use "〜なら" when you say that options are no good, but "〜" is possible, okay or not a problem.

The examples don't make a lot of sense, so I go and google なら. All I can find is stuff about how なら is a particle used to express conditionals, i.e. it's one of the ways of saying what 'if' says in English. This is a meaning of the なら particle that I'm familiar with. I can't find anything about any other meanings of なら.

Can someone explain what my book is on about? Is this related to なら's 'if' meaning, or is it an entirely different word/meaning completely?

The book examples are:

1) 日曜日なら時間が取れるから、いっしょに買い物にいこうよ。

I think this is supposed to mean - I have time on Sunday, let's go shopping together. The なら supposedly implying that days other than Sunday are no good.

2) A: 今度のパーティーでつうやくをしてもらえませんか。
  B: すみません。手紙のほんやくならできますが、つうやくはちょっと...。

So now it's lost me, I have no idea what this is supposed to mean, and what なら is doing here.

  • The kanji for the 2nd one make it easier to read, if you can read the kanji that is. すみません。手紙の翻訳{ほんやく}ならできますが、通訳{つうやく}はちょっと…。 翻訳 means translation, and 通訳 means interpretation (refer to @xeta217's answer).
    – sqrtbottle
    Dec 4, 2015 at 18:14
  • Hey, Thanks for that. The textbook unfortunately doesn't give kanji all the time (even though all the kanji it uses comes with furigana). I think it only uses kanji that it considers to be of 'N4' level. Which is sometimes very annoying because without word deliminating spaces, it can be very hard to tell where word boundaries are when Kanji is not used. Dec 4, 2015 at 22:46

2 Answers 2


Just to add to xeta217's answer, なら is used when the speaker is making an assertion about what has just been said (or about a current state).

So 日曜日なら has a feeling of "If it's Sunday your talking about then..." Likewise 手紙のほんやくなら "If it's letter translating then...".

A) 店に行く

B) 店に行くなら、卵を買ってください。

A) I'm going to the shop. B) Well if it is the case that you're going to the shop then buy eggs please.

So when your book talks about an 'option being no good' it's not that なら has some special meaning in this context. It's just that this form of 'if' is most appropriate. The condition is an assumption about what has been said.

  • Okay, I think I understand what the textbook was trying to get at. Honestly I think it'd be easier if the textbook just said, "Noun + なら" = "If noun...". But I guess there is a bit of nuance there that would not be captured. Dec 4, 2015 at 22:50

なら means "if".

  1. 日曜日なら時間が取れるから、いっしょに買い物にいこうよ。
    Trans: If it's Sunday, ...

So yes, he is specifically talking about Sunday being most optimal.

  1. すみません。手紙のほんやくならできますが、つうやくはちょっと...。
    Trans: I am sorry. If it's translation (of letter), I can do it but interpretation is a bit (difficult, etc)...

Here, translation is no problem but interpretation is difficult.

  • Hey, thanks for that translation. Esp for #2 Dec 4, 2015 at 22:49

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