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狂犬病というこわい病気は最近は日本ではなかなか発生していませんが、もしものことを考えて、犬にかまれたら病院に行かなくてはなりませんよ。
There hasn't been an outbreak of the scary disease known as rabies in Japan recently but considering ????, if you get bitten by a dog you must go to hospital.

Jisho gives the following translations for もしものこと: 'emergency', 'accident', 'rare possibility', 'unexpected occurrence'.

From the context 'rare possibility' seems to fit best, but I guess 'emergency' could work as well. Are either of these correct? 'Emergency' and 'rare possibility' are two quite different meanings. Is there a better way to think about もしものこと?

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  • "if you get bitten by a dog you must go to hospital, considering that it might be rabies" This is how I interpret it.
    – Jimmy Yang
    Jun 2 at 10:13

2 Answers 2

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I'd say the best equivalent for もしものこと in English is "what-if scenario".

Could it be an accident? Yes, accidents are typical "what-if scenarios".

Could the possibility be rare/unexpected? Yes and no. An example: "お父さんにもしものことがあったら" is anticipating the "what-if-dad-dies scenario". But nobody can avoid death and tax, so this scenario wouldn't be rare at all - it's 100% guaranteed to occur at some point in time. That's the possibility vs probability point of view. But even with that aside, one would still use もしものこと for sad news despite knowing it'll happen in the next couple of days.

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I think 'rare possibility' is good in the particular case, but not sure about 'emergency', which sounds rabies is already apparent and it is too late (well, you need to go to hospital even then, so it may fit..) Another phrase I can think of is 'for just in case' (of whose grammaticality I'm not sure either).

The basic meaning of もしものことがあったら/もしもの場合 is '(in) case something happens', so if it is about something rare, then 'rare possibility' can work. But when 'something' is implicitly specific, it may not fit very well.

  • もしもの場合に備えて水や食料を備蓄しています We stock water and food, preparing for earthquake.
  • もしものことがあったら、いつでも連絡してください Please call me anytime if you need help (もしものこと = something happens so that you need help)
  • 子供にもしものことがあったらと思うと心配だ I'm worried, wondering if something happened to my kid (e.g. the kid is not home after 7 o'clock)

Also it may be worth noting that all the examples in Shonagon appear as もしものことがあったら(あれば etc.)

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