What I've studied is that in Japanese, you don't use past tenses in conditional sentences to express a lower probability (like if I were instead of if I am). I know there's a conditional formed with た form (たら), but it doesn't have anything to do with probability.

From that, I guessed that if I saw a た form followed by なら, it wouldn't mean less probability but actual past tense. For example:


should mean if I've been a musician, rather than if I were a musician. But I've heard a lot of these sentences where the actual meaning seems to be the second one.

So in what cases is it correct to use the た form before なら and what exact nuance does it give to the conditional sentence?

(EDIT) Some example sentences:




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    Not sure I understand what you mean about probability. As for your example sentence, you already know whether or not you were a musician; there is no ambiguity. So the only admissible interpretation of なら here would be the counterfactual, i.e. 'if I were a musician ... '. Perhaps you could think of a different example where the ambiguity is clearer. Nov 29, 2020 at 11:41
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    I think it would he helpful if you would give a full example sentence, where the meaning is unclear to you. In general, there are cases where you wouldn't use the past tense in English, but would in Japanese when using から, because から isn't an exact translation of "if". For example 「彼がきたなら…」 = "When he comes home, ..." .
    – user40476
    Nov 30, 2020 at 18:28
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    Is the sentence really in present tense though? The sentence could be talking about "if they were a musician in the past", and the result of the conditional could be referring to the present/future. I think it would really help if there was more context.
    – Shurim
    Nov 30, 2020 at 21:08
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    @Garbaz yeah well it's from a song where there are several conditional sentences and some of them have that pattern. Some examples: 「もしも僕は名医だったなら、親父の病気は僕が治す」, 「もしも僕は王様だったなら、嫌いなやつは全員消えてもらう」or 「もしも僕はミュージシャンだったなら、言葉にならない言葉を紡ぐ」.
    – Fernando
    Nov 30, 2020 at 22:13
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    As for the difference between たら and たなら, this article might help
    – Shurim
    Dec 1, 2020 at 18:38


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