I learned "Verbーえばいい" to mean "should Verb" but I have come across two sentences where Netflix translated it as "just do V". Netflix's translation also makes more sense in context.

Example #1
(Person A just came back from the hospital)
Person B: 大丈夫?
Person A: 大丈夫。薬 飲めばいい。(I'm fine. I just have to take my medicine.)

Example #2
Person A is ruining the plan by acting unnatural
Person B: もっと自然に言えばいいんだよ (Just talk more naturally.)

Does ーえばいい mean not only "should", but also has an extra added nuance of "just"?

Like "I am suggesting you do X", as well as implying that:

  • "X is all you need to do" or
  • "Simply doing X would be good" or
  • "X and nothing more is needed"

飲めば, 言えば, etc. are conditional forms. [V cond. form]-いい literally means “if you do (the act of the verb), it will be good.” Since the speaker is asserting “it will be good” giving only one condition, I think it would be safe to say [V cond. form]-いい indeed has the implication of “only if”.

Actually, it doesn’t always have the advice sense of “should.” Depending on the context, いい could mean “I’m good with anything” or “I don’t care”.

Eat whatever you want to eat. (I wouldn’t mind it.)

Do as you wish. (I don’t care.)

As an expression for giving advice, [V cond. form]-いい could sound a bit pushy. [V た-form]-方がいい would be a safer choice in most cases. This literally translates into something like “the alternative of having done (the act of the verb) would be better (than other alternatives)”, or more idiomatically, “it would be better if you did (the act of the verb)”.

  • I really like your explanation, but you said "since the speaker is giving only one condition..." Isn't this the case like 99% of the time?
    – John Lee
    May 7 at 1:53
  • @JohnLee: Thank you. I meant since the construct accepts only one condition (in the V slot) yet is so assertive as to state “it will be good”, there must be something intrinsic that explains the implication of “only” you sensed. It has little to do with the speaker’s intention.
    – aguijonazo
    May 7 at 2:16
  • @JohnLee と、たら and ば have backwards implication, but it's especially so for ば, because it can't be used factually with 1 time events. Sentence like "I will go when he comes" can be interpreted in two ways. "I will go after/because he comes". "After" meaning is possible with たら, it's a single event and while backwards implication works, it's a single occurrence too. On the other hand "because" meaning talks about a reason and situation generally, a general condition or requirement to do something and thus backward implication include more occurrences. May 7 at 9:32
  • @JohnLee, This factual 1 time meaning is a little bit tricky, because there are also general, habitual and counterfactual conditions. Among these general conditions like "if it's cheap, I will buy" have a similar meaning, but nonetheless it differs from more factual "when it's cheap, I will buy". First one implies I won't buy if it's expensive, second one does that only partially. Among all conditional forms only たら and と can be used factually. And the latter usually takes habitual/general meaning with -る (non-past) tense. May 7 at 9:40

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.