In one of the Japanese learning books I own there is a following text (right from the start):


バーシカ is the name of the dog. The approximate translation, as I understand it, is: "Baska's life was terrible. He didn't have any family, didn't have any job, he slept under an old barn at nights, and spent his free time catching fleas."

What I'm interested in is the usage of いなければ there. Clearly, it is supposed to convey the meaning of "(any family he) didn't have, and...", which is "いなくて" in Japanese. But in the text there is いなければ, which should be translated as "if he didn't (have any family)...", and that doesn't make any sense, looking at the whole sentence.

Now, the original of this text was in Russian, and the author of the book is Russian too, but this text was translated to Japanese by a Japanese person, which adds to the doubt that it is simply a mistake. Also, in the grammar comments for this text the book clearly states: "Inakereba - verb inai in conditional form (if there is no...)"

So, the question is, can conditional ば form be used in the meaning of くて form, like in this example? Or maybe I completely missing something, in which case I would be really thankful for any explanations.


There is no mistake in the phrase; It is perfect in every way.


Notice this is in the pattern of:

「A もなければ B もない」 meaning "neither A nor B"

"(the dog) had neither any family of his own nor any job worth mentioning"

In other words, 「なければ」 is not used as "conditional" here in the first place. It should be taken as just a part of a set phrase.

Finally, if you replaced the 「いなければ」 by 「いなくて」 in this sentence, it would sound very childish even though it would still be understood.

  • Ohh, I see, somehow I've never encountered any info about this set phrase. The more you know, huh. Thank you! – Dmitry Dec 4 '16 at 7:22
  • FYI, the pattern is listed as 〜も〜ば〜も in my grammar book. – istrasci Dec 5 '16 at 5:31

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.