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The term 〜さえ〜ば is often translated as "if only ~ then". I am not a native Japanese speaker, but several example sentences I see make me think it can be translated more like "as long as ~ then".

Below are three example sentences and I translate both as "if only ~ then" and "as long as ~then".

Which translation is accurate in these three sentences? (and, if neither is correct, how should they be translated into English?)

1a)道が込みさえしなければ、駅までタクシーで10分ぐらいだ。

("As long as the road is not crowded, then you can reach the station by taxi in about 10 minutes"), implying the road is usually not crowded.

or

("If only the road were not crowded, then we could reach the station by taxi in about 10 minutes."), implying the road is usually crowded.

2a)交通が便利でさえあれば、この辺も住みやすいのだが。

("As long as the transportation is convenient, then this area is easy to live in"), implying the transportation is usually convenient.

or

("If only the transportation were convenient, then this area would be easy to live in"), implying the transportation is not really convenient.

3a)住所さえわかれば、地図で探して行きます。

("As long as the address is known, then we can look it up on a map and go" ), implying the address is probably known.

or

("If only we knew the address, then we could look it up on a map and go"), implying the address is not known.

Below are four more examples in which the "as long as ~ then" translation just seems more fitting than "if only ~ then".

Do you agree with these translations of mine?

1b)あなたのご都合さえ良ければ今度の日曜日のコンサートのチケットを買っておきます。

("As long as it is convenient for you, then I will buy tickets for the Sunday concert").

2b)体さえ丈夫なら、どんな苦労にも耐えられると思う。

("As long as your body is healthy, then I think you can withstand any hard work").

3b)言葉さえ共通なら、お互いにもっとコミュニケーションがよくできたでしょう。

("As long as we have commonality in our words, then we should be able to improve our communication.")

4b)建設的なご意見でさえあれば、どんな小さなものでも大歓迎です。

("As long as your opinion is constructive, then any input no matter how small is welcomed").

  • 1
    commonality in our words ← The 言葉 in 言葉さえ共通なら means 言語, "language". 「共通言語」"a common language", 「言葉/言語が共通なら」"If we speak a common language" – Chocolate Aug 26 at 15:30
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I think

2a) 交通が便利でさえあれば、この辺{へん}も住{す}みやすいのだが

is very likely to imply "If only we knew the address, then we could look it up on a map and go". Since it is using the conjunction of opposition だが, it implies the transportation is not really convenient.

In other cases, it's hard to determine if only ~ then or as long as ~then unless the reader knows the context for the case a).

However,I think the intonation can choose as long as ~ then or if only ~ then.

Since でしょう is basically an assumption, it could mean either

3b)言葉さえ共通なら、お互いにもっとコミュニケーションがよくできたでしょう。(in a fresh tone.)

("As long as we had had commonality in our words, then we could have been able to improve our communication.")

3b)言葉さえ共通なら、お互いにもっとコミュニケーションがよくできたでしょう。(in a disappointing tone.)

("If only we had had commonality in our words, then we should have been able to improve our communication.")

I think the other interpretation for case b) is correct.

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It depends on whether the sentence is counterfactual or not. If the sentence is counterfactual, you should use "If only". If the sentence is not counterfactual, you should use "as long as".

2a and 3b are obviously counterfactual, so you should use "If only".

I think your other examples are not counterfactual, so you should use "as long as"

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