I'm used to only seeing なら, when used with verbs, to be used with either the dictionary form or the た form of a verb, but recently I saw it with the て form


With a presumed meaning of "If I stick with Mahjong, I have a feeling I will be able to speak with my sister"

The question is whether this is if I'm interpreting what is happening correctly, and if so, what nuance does this have.


Let us start with the meaning of the verb 通す here, and work our way up to the whole sentence. We will touch on a few incidental points of interest along the way.

The meaning of 「通す」

"Stick with [something] (until the end/all the way)" is indeed one of the meanings of 通す, but in this context it means "go through [something]", or to be more specific, something along the lines of "use the mediacy or mediation of something/someone" or "use something/someone as a medium or intermediary". The most relevant definition on goo辞書:


Thus 「麻雀を通す」 may translate to "use mahjong as a medium".

Why is the verb in て-form?

In your question, 通す is in the non-finite te-form 通して. The te-form has a wide array of uses, one of which is to indicate that the action expressed by the verb is a means for doing some other action. This can be represented in English by "by Verb-ing" or by turning the verb into the participial form (i.e. "v-ing"), which is also a type of non-finite form.

So "(by) using mahjong as a medium" is an apt translation for 「麻雀を通して」.

A syntactic analysis of 「を通して」

You can think of "を通して" in your question as, rather than expressing a distinct action, acting more like a case particle that serves to indicate that (the referent of) the preceding noun is a means or medium through which the event or action expressed by the following verb phrase or clause is achieved. In cases like this, it might be better to translate it as "through", "by the medium of", "by means of" and the like.

This is in the same vein as the likes of "に対して" ("toward" or "against"), "について" ("about"), "をもって" ("with") and "によって" ("by" or "depending on"), all of which are originally comprised of a particle and a verb in te-form but have gone through a conversion into compound particles.

「なら」: The grammar

If it were 「麻雀を通すなら」 or 「麻雀を通したなら」, the 「なら」 would be a 接続助詞 ("conjunctive particle") like 「ので」, 「から」 and 「 けど」 etc., but the 「なら」 in 「通してなら」 can be considered a 副助詞 (What's the English term for this one?), which puts it in the same class of particle as しか, こそ, でも, etc., and as such, it can attach to various kinds of part of speech. For example:

  • 「彼女ならできる」(attaching to a noun)

  • 「田中さんになら話してもよい」(attaching to a particle)

  • 「ゆっくり(と)なら進むことができる」(attaching to an adverb)

「なら」: The meaning

To investigate what the なら does in terms of meaning, let us first look at the なら-less version of the sentence, 「麻雀を通してお姉ちゃんと話せる気がする」, because it is already a grammatical sentence without it.

As you probably understand now, it may translate to something like this:

"I have a feeling that I am/will be able to speak with my sister through mahjong."

(I used "through mahjong" for 「麻雀を通して」 here but I think "(by) using mahjong as a medium" is fine too.)

By attaching 「なら」 to 「麻雀を通して」, you are adding some import with respect to mahjong as a means of communication.

So what is it?

The more obvious answer is that the 「なら」 indicates that "through mahjong" is the condition for the speaker's being able to speak with her sister. This is a possible interpretation. Indeed, in 「ゆっくりとなら進むことができる」, for example, "slowly" is a condition for being able to proceed.

The less obvious, but more accurate answer here, I think, is that it ascribes a degree of specialness or exceptionality. Let me use the example sentences in the previous section to illustrate this.


This means "She can do it," but with an implication that she is somewhat special or exceptional in being able to do it.


This means "You may talk to Tanaka-san," but with an implication that 田中さん is something of an exception.

(Compare this use of 「なら」 with the 副助詞「だけ」, which (among other functions) indicates a sole exception.)

A general look at the sentence

Given all this, we should now understand that 「麻雀を通してなら」 in 「麻雀を通してならお姉ちゃんと話せる気がする」 carries the information that using mahjong is a special or exceptional (in the sense that there are only a few other ways, if at all) means of achieving a conversation with her sister.

Now, I would provide a translation for the whole sentence by way of a closure, but I am having a hard time fashioning one that fully and neatly incorporates the implication of 「なら」. Perhaps fronting through mahjong helps a little?

"I have a feeling that, through mahjong, I am/will be able to speak with my sister."

Well, anyway, this concludes my overlong answer.

  • 2
    Thank you for reading. -- いあいあ😛勉強さしてもらってます!^^ – Chocolate Mar 14 at 2:16
  • It sounds like, from what I understand, the translation for closure may be best said as "I have a feeling that, if I do so through Mahjong, I will be able to speak with my sister." – MegaZeroX Mar 14 at 2:33
  • Ah, sorry I cramped your style. I removed "Thank you for reading" when reviewing a suggested edit... – Eddie Kal Mar 16 at 1:46

The following three options are all correct:

  • 通すなら: Future tense/no notion of time
  • 通してなら: Present tense
  • 通したなら: Past tense

Before you start reading the rest of my comment, I should say: There's hardly any difference between these phrases and they can be used almost interchangeably.

With the first one it sounds a bit like the person can talk to their sister even before starting to play mahjong. The difference between the second and the third is: "If I do this, then it should happen" and "If I have done this, then it should happen". In all 3 cases, it's possible that the person has never played mahjong with their sister yet.

Maybe I'm gonna give you a different example here:

  1. 手紙を書くなら
  2. 手紙を書いてなら
  3. 手紙を書いたなら

In 1., I'd expect something like "ペンを貸すよ (= I can give you a pen)" or "電気をつけるよ (= I'm gonna turn on the light)", i.e. something that should be done bofore the person starts writing the letter (mostly, but not 100% necessarily).

I'd say 2. and 3. are virtually the same, but it's possible that in 3. the letter has already been written.

In rare cases, where there's absolutely no notion of time (like physical principles), it's possible that only the dictionary form can be used and it's meant to be the present tense. For example: "特殊相対性理論上、光速の半分のスピードで飛ぶ粒子の重さが二倍になるなら (= If, according to the theory of special relativity, the mass of a particle flying at half the speed of light increases twofold, ...)".

  • 3
    You might want to take a look at the other answer... Also, I feel like if you're going to do a comparison at all, it should between 通して and 通じて, not the different tenses. I'm pretty sure this is somewhat of a set pattern. – Shurim Mar 13 at 20:07


「~を[通]{とお}して」 means "through~~" or "via~~".

You use it this way:

get information through the Internet
speak through an interpreter


talk to my sister through/via Mahjong

なら adds the meaning of "if" to the adverbial phrase 「麻雀を通して」:

lit. "I feel like I can talk to my sister if (I do so) through/via Mahjong."

(Btw, you can not rephrase it as 麻雀を通すならお姉ちゃんと話せる or 麻雀を通したならお姉ちゃんと話せる.)

なら can attach to verb forms other than the dictionary form and the た form. It can follow adverbial phrases, so it can also attach to particles like から, で, を, ながら, etc. eg:

帰ってから電話する make a phone call after getting home
→ 帰ってからなら電話できる can make a phone call if (it's) after getting home

音楽を聴きながら待つ wait while listening to music
→ 音楽を聴きながらなら待てる can wait if (I do so) while listening to music

座っする do it while seated
→ 座ってならできる can do it if (I do it) while seated

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