6

Both expressions seem to be related to show a strong opposition to do something by rather doing something else. But what is the difference between them ?

Additional question: both seem to express speaker point of view. Can we use those structures to express other feelings ?

5

I assume that you already know the difference between いい and ましだ in isolation, and focus on the difference in the structures:

(A) XするくらいならYする/したほうがいい
(B) XするくらいならYする/したほうがましだ

As you wrote, both (A) and (B) mean that doing Y is better than doing X although both are bad, and this is often used as a statement of how bad doing X is. But I think that I feel a few differences in nuance between (A) and (B).

First, simpler parts:

  • (B) is less formal than (A) because ましだ is a little colloquial word.
  • (B) puts more emphasis on the badness of the two options than (A). This is because ましだ already means “less bad” (better but still bad) even without the ~するくらいなら part.

But I think that there is another difference. I will try to explain it although I still have difficulty getting hold of it.

While both (A) and (B) can be just a statement of a fact or an opinion, (A) can also be a suggestion for the listener to do Y. I will use nomithekid’s examples:

(1A) そんな仕事をするくらいなら、会社をやめたほうがいい。
(1B) そんな仕事をするくらいなら、会社をやめたほうがましだ。

(1A) can be either:

  • a mere statement of the speaker’s opinion about how bad the job is, or
  • a suggestion for the listener to quit the company, given that the alternative is doing that bad job.

I think that (1B) is interpreted only as a statement and not a suggestion.

  • Thanks for the explication, it's clearer ! Regarding Y alternative, is there is a difference using dictionary form or past form ? For instance : そんな仕事をするくらいなら、会社をやめたほうがいい。 そんな仕事をするくらいなら、会社をやめるほうがいい。 – Khana Jan 14 '16 at 6:14
  • If we want to express an alternative in the past, X stays in dictionary form and it is ましだ or いい that are used in past tense ? – Khana Jan 14 '16 at 6:30
3

Although both ~ましだ and ~いい indicate the better option of the alternatives, ~ましだ indicates the better of undesirable alternatives, i.e. the least objectionable choice.

That is to say ~ましだ has the added nuance that even though it is better, it is still not satisfactory.

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