Reading through a list of questions on a small questionnaire that came with a Japanese textbook, I found the following:


I am puzzled by the combination of the conditional of ある with かいたい.


Clearly means "what kind of book would you like to buy?". Normally I would expect an あったら to split the sentence into two clauses, but that would split どんな from 買いたい. What, grammatically is going on here?


1 Answer 1


I think the Q&A @user3856370 has pointed you to should sufficiently answer your question. I'd like to say a few words about how I personally understand that sentence. Here goes nothing:

Very often you see Japanese verbs used unaccompanied by a subject or an object, or both. See this answer for a more detailed explanation on this.


Your proposed version dispenses with the あったら conditional and has the patient of the verb どんな本 as the subject of the sentence. It is thus a single-clause sentence with どんな本 as its subject. Let's look at the original sentence:


You are right that あったら often marks a clause. In the original sentence, although there is no 読点 (comma), 「どんな本があったら」is 主節の述語を修飾する副詞節 (an adverbial clause that modifies the predicate of the main clause), because it describes a condition that, when met, leads to the next step (thinking about buying them).

If we put back in the sentence things that are omitted:


What kinds of books, if the store has them, would you like to buy?

Since either が and を can be used here, it doesn't really matter if you regard the pronoun それ, a placeholder for どんな本, as a syntactic subject or object. Semantically of course, it is the object/patient of the verb 買う.

  • Thank you, this perfectly answers my question. The linked answer does not though, so I am glad for your additional explanation. I am not confused about how 買いたい works or whether to use が or を markers with it. I was not sure what the condition was controlling. Commented Mar 9, 2021 at 8:35

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