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I encountered the following multiple-choice question on page 29 (question 10) of my JLPT N2 grammar textbook 「新完全マスター文法 日本語能力試験N2」:

佐藤君、今やっている作業が(   )、山口君の方を手伝ってやってくれ。

1 終われば       2 終わった上で

3 終わり次第      4 終わったかと思えば

I chose 「1 終われば」, but the answer given was 「3 終わり次第」.

My textbook states on page 17 that ~次第 in the sense of 「~が実現した後、すぐに続けてある行動をする」 is a 「硬い言い方」 (formal/stiff expression), which does not seem to go well with the informal tone of やってくれ here, so I did not choose 「3 終わり次第」. 「1 終われば」, on the other hand, seems to make sense to me:

(?)佐藤君、今やっている作業が終われば、山口君の方を手伝ってやってくれ。

Satō, help Yamaguchi if you finish the work you're doing right now.

Why is the answer 「3 終わり次第」 instead of 「1 終われば」? What am I missing here?

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  • 終われば is probably acceptable in the Kansai dialect (idk), but not in the Tokyo's standard language. Aug 17 at 3:02

1 Answer 1

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I guess 今やっている作業が終われば is acceptable, but the whole sentence with 終わり次第 is more natural as an order in office.

Yet another possibility is use of たら. To me,

  • 今やっている作業が終わったら、山口君の方を手伝ってやってくれ。

is completely natural whereas 終われば is very slightly unnatural. The difference is subtle, but 終われば sounds like in case/if ever you finish the job where the possibility of finishing the job is low. On the other hand, 終わったら sounds more simply if/when you finish the job.

Because of this slight unnaturalness, 終わり次第 = as soon as you finish is the (better) answer.


There are a number of websites explaining conditional expressions (1, 2, 3). In 1, it is stated that ば is used for hypothetical condition and たら for a one-shot event, which I think explains the above to some extent.

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  • The translation of 次第 as "as soon as" is enlightening. I concede that I still have a long way to go before understanding the nuances between ~ば・~と・~たら・~なら etc. :/ Do you have any comments on the book's claim that 次第 is a 硬い言い方 and the way it interacts with やる? (I think "more natural as an order in office" addresses that, but I'm still not entirely sure.)
    – L. F.
    Aug 14 at 13:25
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    @L.F. I think 少し硬い refers to the fact that 次第 is used mostly in official situations. For example, speaking to your wife, 帰宅次第、夕食を準備しといて (when you are back home, prepare dinner) sounds like a military order and 帰宅次第、夕食を用意します (as soon as I'm home, I'll prepare dinner) makes yourself sound like a subordinate to your wife. As such both sound odd.
    – sundowner
    Aug 14 at 14:49

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