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ともあれ、ここが自宅でよかった。もしこんなところを誰かに見られていたなら、狂三は絶対にバレない死体の処理方法を調べねばならなくなるところだった

狂三 doesn’t want others to see her wearing Lolita dress. (The following text says 士道 accidentally opens the door to her room and sees 狂三 dressed in Lolita fashion)

I was taught that both 「たら……るところだった」and 「たら……たところだ」are fixed constructions expressing counterfactual situations. So can we change the bold part to なったところだ or なっていたところだ? If we can, what would be the difference between るところだった and たところだ?

The previous link doesn’t quite answer my question because the answer there isn’t about counterfactual conditionals.

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  • I’m not sure if 〜たところだ is good for expressing a counterfactual situation to begin with. Do you have any example?
    – aguijonazo
    Jul 7, 2021 at 11:12
  • @aguijonazo Hi. Here is an example indicating a counterfactual situation. 父が生きていたら、一緒にテーブルを囲んで料理を食べていたところだろう。The following two links explain the grammar. nihongonosensei.net/?p=18734 and jlptsensei.com/learn-japanese-grammar/たら~ところだ-tara-tokoro-da-meaning/ Jul 7, 2021 at 11:50
  • Do you have an example that contains 〜たところだ that is not part of 〜ていたところだ?
    – aguijonazo
    Jul 7, 2021 at 11:57
  • @aguijonazo「か……かか、わかっておるのならばよい。もしいじけた言葉の一つでも吐こうものなら、無理矢理にでも空に飛ばしてやったところだ」This is an example. But context is needed to understand the sentence. forum.wordreference.com/threads〜ようものなら…〜たところだ.3767599/ Jul 7, 2021 at 12:19
  • 1
    Just FYI, the self-labeled "jlptsensei" is a terrible site for learning Japanese. See this: japanese.meta.stackexchange.com/a/2196/30454
    – Eddie Kal
    Dec 30, 2021 at 6:56

1 Answer 1

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Let’s first compare three sentences without ところだ or ところだった.

狂三は死体の処理方法を調べねばならなくな
It will become necessary for Kurumi to search for how to get rid of a corpse.
(Kurumi will have to search for how to get rid of a corpse in the future.)

狂三は死体の処理方法を調べねばならなくなっ
It has (just) become necessary for Kurumi to search for how to get rid of a corpse.
(Kurumi now has to search for how to get rid of a corpse because of a recent change in the situation.)

狂三は死体の処理方法を調べねばならなくなっていた
It had (already) become necessary for Kurumi to search for how to get rid of a corpse.
(Kurumi was already in a situation where she had to search for how to get rid of a corpse because of an earlier change in the situation.)

They were a bit hard to translate because of なる. I resorted to beginning each sentence with “it” so the verb “become” would fit well to express a change in the situation at various points in time. The translations may look awkward as a result.

Anyway, these are precisely the situations Kurumi would have found herself in if someone had seen her, as described from a third person’s perspective at the time of the event. This should make sense because if ところ means anything, it is “situation” or “circumstance”, and the part before it describes what kind of situation or circumstance it is. (We had a similar discussion about つもり here.)

Conceptually speaking, adding ところだった at the end of each Japanese sentence would be like adding “The situation would have been such that …” at the beginning of its English translation and back-shifting the tenses inside the that-clause, whereas adding ところ would correspond to beginning the English sentence with “The situation would be such that …” The former is used to look back at a counterfactual situation in the past, while the latter describes one in the present. (The past tense may also be used to describe a present situation, but let’s leave it aside here.)

The distinction between 〜ところだった and 〜ところ seems to get blurred when the part before ところだ describes a state, rather than an action or a change of state, that would have resulted from said counterfactual condition, and that’s usually the case when 〜ていたところだ is used. The reason the distinction gets blurred could be because the same state would have continued till the present, making it unimportant whether the reference point is set at a past time or in the present.

狂三は死体の処理方法を調べねばならなくなところだった
The situation would have been such that Kurumi now had to search for how to get rid of a corpse.
(Kurumi would have had to begin to search for how to get rid of a corpse.)

狂三は死体の処理方法を調べねばならなくなっていたところ
The situation would be such that Kurumi was already in a situation where she had to search for how to get rid of a corpse.
(Kurumi would have already had to search for how to get rid of a corpse.)

Although we haven’t considered it so far, 調べねばならなくなっているところだった also works fine. Actually, this is the direct result of swapping the position of the tense marker on 調べねばならなくなっていたところ.

While 調べねばならなくなっところ may not be totally unacceptable, it doesn’t seem to work so well as the other options probably because 調べねばならなくなっ is more naturally understood as describing a past change than its resulting state, and therefore, it doesn’t sound like referring to a counterfactual situation that would have lasted till the present as much as 調べねばならなくなっていた does. It sounds more like a normal expression of aspect.

I guess 空に飛ばしてやっところだ in one of your comments is OK because its focus is not so much on a past act of throwing as it is on its result. The person in question would be in the sky by now.

In general, I would say 〜ていたところだ sounds more natural than simple 〜ところだ when expressing a counterfactual situation. In the link you provided, every example that matches 〜ところだ also matches 〜ていたところだ, and they can be rephrased using 〜ているところだった without changing their meanings much.

父が生きていたら、一緒にテーブルを囲んで料理を食べていたところろう。
父が生きていたら、一緒にテーブルを囲んで料理を食べているところだったろう。

手伝ってくれなければ、とっくに諦めていたところ
手伝ってくれなければ、とっくに諦めているところだった

落とした財布を届けてくれなかったら、今頃途方に暮れていたところ
落とした財布を届けてくれなかったら、今頃途方に暮れているところだった

秘密がバレたら大喧嘩になっていたところ
秘密がバレたら大喧嘩になっているところだった

アドバイスをくれなければ逃げ出していたところ
アドバイスをくれなければ逃げ出しているところだった

パソコン修理してくれなかったら今頃買い替えていたところ
パソコン修理してくれなかったら今頃買い替えているところだった

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