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宿題をやりさえすればいい

宿題をやってさえいたらいい

What is the difference/nuance between these two ways to use さえ with verbs?

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  • 宿題をやりさえすれば
  • 宿題をやってさえいたら

These are both complicated with さえ (="only"), whose grammar rule may be difficult, but after removing さえ, these sentences are:

  • 宿題をやれば = If you (will) do your homework ...
  • 宿題をやっていたら = If you have done/finished your homework ...

The essential difference is that only the latter has a subsidiary verb ~ている, which describes "the continuation of a state" in this case. See this question for the basics for ~ている: When is Vている the continuation of action and when is it the continuation of state?

Compare the following two sentences:

  1. 明日の昼に宿題をやりさえすればいい。
  2. 明日の昼(まで)に宿題をやってさえいたらいい。

Sentence 1 rather simply refers to your future action. It means you have to do your homework tomorrow at noon. Sentence 2 means you have to finish your homework by noon tomorrow; you have to do your homework tonight or tomorrow morning.

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I think it is almost interchangeable though, if there was the difference in some cases, it similar to the difference between deductive reasoning and inductive reasoning.

宿題をやりさえすればいい

宿題をやりさえすればいい may imply that you only have to do homework in order to achieve something. If you have done homework, you can do something. This is kind of deduction. Doing X takes you Y.

宿題をやってさえいたらいい

宿題をやってさえいたらいい may imply if you are doing homework, something is more likely to happen. This time, Doing X is likely to take you Y.

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