I came across the following sentence in my textbook when studying the grammar point Verb -て + ばかり + いる.


The role of ばかり is clear, I just included it to give context and keep the sentence as it appears in the book. I would like to figure out if this sentence is a condition (A), a causality (B) or something else (C).

A: Conditional hypothesis

I understand (i.e. I guess it means) the original sentence above as "If you keep working like that, you will get sick" but if I had to formulate the sentence in my own words, I would say either of the following sentences:

  1. 「そんなに働いてばかりいたら病気になりますよ。」
  2. 「そんなに働いてばかりいると病気になりますよ。」

B: Causal hypothesis

Another possibility I have thought of is that this Verb -て is conveying a causal relationship between the clauses:


meaning "You keep working like that so you get sick". However, it is clunky because I have only seen that grammar used in past tenses and I am not sure whether it could be used with present or future tense clauses such as 「病気になります」.

C: I don't have a clue hypothesis

Did I miss something important? Maybe the sentence has a different meaning whatsoever?

Thank you very much!


1 Answer 1


Vては is a grammar that has two usages.

Firstly, according to my source it is used "to express if or since something will or has happened." Therefore it conveys condition and it can also be used with adjectives (いAdjくては、なAdj + では) and nouns (N+では). For example, 「こんなに雨が降っては、買い物ができないな。」

Secondly and interestingly, the grammar has a second usage that fits well in the sentence I posted, particularly because ばかり means "keeping doing something". The usage is V1ては〜V2 and "it represents a continuous or repetitive pattern between those two verbs". For instance, 「子どもの頃、姉とケンカしては、母に叱られたものだ。」(When I was a kid, I would often get scolded by my mom for fighting with my older sister).

So while I have not determined yet which of the usages is being used in the original sentence (maybe both nuances are present and its just ok this way) I think that the original sentence can be understood as a conditional. In this case, the ては grammar is reinforcing the idea of repetition conveyed with ばかり while making the sentence a conditional one.

source: https://jlptsensei.com/learn-japanese-grammar/ては-では-tewa-dewa/

  • 1
    Since いけません means It can't be/it's too bad, a good mnemonic to remember this grammar point is to think of the well known grammar point V-てはいけません(must not) as the union of the grammar point Vては and the expression いけません (If you do smth + It can't be/ it's too bad). タバコを吸ってはいけません → If you smoke tobacco, it's too bad! → You must not smoke tobacco.
    – jarmanso7
    Mar 3, 2019 at 10:19

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