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「帰るなら、窓を閉めなさい!」

I recently asked my teacher about なら being used in this command sentence, and she said while it was acceptable, it had a different meaning compared to 「帰ったら、窓を閉めなさい!」

While the たら sentence seems to imply closing the window after getting home, the なら sentence implies the reverse: closing the window before going home (from the office, perhaps).

I asked, 「いつも 逆のニュアンス ですか。」 and based on her reply I figured yes, なら always implies the second half of the sentence occurring before the conditional clause. (Perhaps either of us misheard or misinterpreted the other person.)

Looking at some of the answers on this website and some example sentences, I can see that this isn't always the case: なら can be used to mean "If that's what you're talking about..." or similar.

Example 1

テープレコーダーを買うならテープをくれるはずです。

(1) If [you] (are going to) buy a tape recorder, [I] expect [them] to give [you] tapes. (Statement of expected outcome. Here I would interpret the tapes to come with the recorder.)

Example 2

A: スーパーに行ってくるよ。 I'm going to the supermarket.

B: スーパーに行くのなら、しょうゆを買ってきて。 If you're going to the supermarket, bring back some soy sauce.

Am I analysing the sentences above wrongly? When does なら have the 「逆」nuance? When does it simply mean "If that's what you're talking about..."?

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    I view the 帰るなら、窓を閉めなさい sentence as rather confrontational. There's no before / after ordering in it. なら adds the meaning of you're already acting as if you're about to leave. I don't think there's a good analogue of it in English. – oals Apr 26 '16 at 7:17
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    テープレコーダーを買うなら中古品はいらない vs テープレコーダーを買ったら中古品はいらない  スーパーに行くなら手提げ袋が欲しい vs スーパーに行ったら手提げ袋が欲しい :) – nariuji Apr 28 '16 at 14:00
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+50

The most concise explanation would be:

  • A なら B means "if there is an A, there is a B"
  • A たら B means "if A is completed, B happens"

なら doesn't really care about the time order. B could take place before, while, after doing A, or all time during A. It just tells "an A must be accompanied by a B". In linguistic jargon, なら makes aoristic condition.

帰るなら、窓を閉めなさい

The reason why the sentence usually means "close window before you go home" is because a verb's plain (= non-past) form usually denotes inceptive, e.g. "get to do", "about to do", "be going to do".

Compared to it, たら is easier to explain in English. It says B happens when A takes effect, accomplishes, is observed true, or if it's something that takes some time when it ends... in other words, when A is perfect. In most cases you can safely translate it as "B after A".

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    This was a very clear answer. Thank you for clearing up the time orders. – rhyaeris Apr 27 '16 at 4:11

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