I have recently been trying to learn how to translate 2nd and 3rd conditional sentences accurately into Japanese, but didn't found a clear, detailed answer. By gathering different bits, it seems that 3rd conditional could be formed as in the following example:

If I had had money, I would have bought food.

Is this sentence correct? Also, if I understood correctly, the use of 〜ていた forms is to emphasize the fact the condition and potential result would have taken place in the past. Would the sentence still have the same meaning if the initial もし was not included?

What about if the result would have been a negative action? Is the following correct?

If I had eaten, I wouldn't have been hungry.

What about the 2nd conditional? How would the following be translated?

If I had money, I would build a house.

Would the following be correct?


Finally, would the translations still be correct, but less formal, by replacing the final 〜でしょう by 〜だろう ?

Thanks a lot!

  • 1
    What do you mean by 'second' and 'third conditional'? As far as I know, those aren't used conventionally in describing English grammar in English. – Sjiveru Aug 12 '18 at 20:20
  • I am not entirely sure what your question is, but お金があったら sounds much better than お金があっていたら. – Blavius Aug 13 '18 at 0:21
  • @Sjiveru They're extremely common in textbooks for non-native speakers of English. The three conditionals model is a deliberately simplified set of training wheels. It doesn't describe English conditionals particularly well and it's nowhere close to complete, so of course linguists don't use it. The advantage is that it gives learners some patterns they can memorize and start using right away, but advanced learners end up having to abandon it eventually. – snailplane Aug 13 '18 at 1:11
  • @snailboat Interesting! I've never heard those terms. I've learned a new thing today! – Sjiveru Aug 13 '18 at 13:05

Let me start with the simpler one of the two - the second conditioal (仮定法過去{かていほうかこ}). Not sure why you would start with the third (仮定法過去完了{かていほうかこかんりょう}), which is more complex.

Second Conditional:

"If I had money, I would build a house."

Your translation:


which is kind of close but not correct. Only the last half (main clause) is grammatical.

In Japanese, we never say 「有っていたら」 regardless of the meaning and/or context. That form simply does not exist.

The correct form is 「あったら」 or 「あれば」.  The vast majority of us native speakers would write this using all kana instead of using the kanji 「有」. Also correct would be to use the different verb 「持{も}つ」 and say 「持っていたら」 or 「持っていれば」.

(Additionally, it is far more natural-sounding to say 「お金{かね}」 than 「金」. Likewise, we say 「お茶」 for "tea" and rarely ever 「茶」.) 

Putting it all together, a correct and natural-sounding translation would be:

「(もし)お金が(あったら or あれば)、家を買う(だろう or でしょう)。」

Using 「建{た}てる」 instead of 「買う」 would make it more true to your English original which uses the verb "to build" rather than "to buy".

In fact, let us form another second conditional sentence using 「持つ」 and 「建てる」. That would be:

「(もし)お金持って(いたら or いれば)、家を建てる(だろう or でしょう)。」

Moving on to the third conditional..

"If I had had money, I would have bought food."

And your TL reads:


Again, the second half is perfect. The ony mistake in the first is「有っていたら」, which makes no sense as I mentioned before. So, it looks pretty good overall.

The correct and natural-sounding sentences are:

「もしお金を持っていたら、食べ物を買っていた(でしょう or だろう)。」

「もしお金があったら、食べ物を買っていた(でしょう or だろう)。」

Why use 「お金があったら」 for both second and third conditionals, you wonder. That is simply because the form 「お金があっていたら」 does not exist in the language.

  • Thanks a lot, that made everything much clearer! I didn't know あっていたら form does not exist. Is it only the あっていたら form which doesn't exist, or in general あっていた does not exist, thus the corresponding たら conditional doesn't exist? Also, could you please confirm if 食べていたら、お腹が空いていなかったでしょう is correct? Thank you so much! – Cocos Aug 13 '18 at 11:45

If I had money, I would build a house. お金があったら家を建てる[のに/けど]…。 The のに… or けど… can indicate the unreal condition, “you don’t have money.” https://youtu.be/_3DqKPZZ_34 12:25

お金があったら家を建てる[だろう/でしょう」can be used when talking about your future plan, “I will build a house if I have money.”

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