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物置から全財産を二階の寝室に移すのに、ハリーはたった一回階段を上がればよかった
It only took Harry one trip upstairs to move everything he owned from the cupboard to this room. (original text)
Harry hoped that he only had to go up the stairs once to move everything he owned from the storage room to the upstairs bedroom. (my bad translation)

I cannot understand how 上がればよかった is working in this sentence. It surely doesn't have anything to do with hoping/wishing. I'm clearly missing something fundamental. Because of this I'm also not sure whether to translate のに at the end of the first clause as 'even though' or 'in order to'.

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    Not your question but I get very different images from cupboard and 物置 and Google seems to agree. 物入れ seems closer.
    – aguijonazo
    Feb 20, 2023 at 22:58
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    @aguijonazo So, cupboard refers to what we call the 'cupboard under the stairs' which is a storage room for putting in things like vacuum cleaners etc. Looking at the pictures of 物置 on google it looks like somewhere between what I would call a 'storage box' and a 'garden shed'. Certainly not what was intended in the original book. Feb 20, 2023 at 23:54
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    To be fair to the translator, 物置 is also used for 物置部屋.
    – aguijonazo
    Feb 21, 2023 at 0:27
  • I feel that the original and your translation is close enough. It says just one travel upstairs sufficed to move the stuff, which is expressed by 'only took one trip upstairs' and 'only had to go up once'.
    – sundowner
    Feb 21, 2023 at 8:54
  • @sundowner I'm afraid I don't see it. My confusion is about the ばよかった part, which I'm translating as 'hope/wish'. There is no such meaning in the original text, and I can't see why it is used here. I'm assuming I'm mistranslating it somehow. Feb 21, 2023 at 10:40

1 Answer 1

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The ばよかった is used in the literal sense.

...ばよかった, taken literally, means If ..., it was good/sufficed. The meaning hope/wish comes from interpreting this as would have been good instead of was good.

As such, to some extent, all ばよかった sentences are ambiguous. A few things to note are

  • In the hope/wish sense, the hoping subject should be I.
  • さえすればよかった unambiguously means had only to. (In the example, it could be 上がりさえすればよかった though it's a bit strained.)

Examples:

  • 昨日は買い物に行けばよかった

can mean

  1. All I had to do yesterday was to go shopping.
  2. I wish I had done shopping yesterday. (I didn't)

1 is the literal sense. (昨日買い物に行けばよかった can only mean 2, I don't really know why.)

  • ゲームをするためにグラフィックボードを買えばよかった
  1. In order to play games, I had only to buy a graphics card. (I had a PC already)
  2. I wish I had bought a graphics card to play games. (I didn't and it's become more expensive)

Adding a word like ゲームをするためにあとはグラフィックボードを買えばよかった makes it unambiguously mean 1.

  • 彼は専門家に相談すればよかった
  1. He had only to consult an expert.
  2. I wish he consulted an expert. (He didn't and is in a mess)

I suppose the context disambiguates in most cases.

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  • Thanks. I did also think of the literal translation of "if .. it would be good" but I still have a hard time seeing how that becomes "all I had to do is ...". Is there another way to think about it or should I just learn this as another alternative translation of ばよかった? Feb 21, 2023 at 16:10
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    @user3856370 - The present form 〜ばいい, which literally means "if you do ..., it will be good " and is used to give advice, often implies "only if ..." When it does, it's not much different from "it's enough for you to do ..." Put it in the past tense and you get 〜ばよかった. However, I would say it's a clumsy translation. 上がるだけでよかった would have made this meaning clearer and been easy enough for young readers to understand. 〜上がるだけで〜移すことができた might have been even better.
    – aguijonazo
    Feb 21, 2023 at 23:42
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    @user3856370 I guess 'is good' may not properly convey the meaning. You could think you are done*/*all is set*/*to suffice. こうすればよい (present) = Doing this suffice / こうすればよかった(past or irrealis) = Doing this sufficed or Doing this would have suffice.
    – sundowner
    Feb 22, 2023 at 22:00

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