たら (tara) Meaning Japanese [JLPT N4]

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たら (tara) Meaning Japanese [JLPT N4]

The expression たら (tara) means if or when.

たら is one of the several conditional forms in Japanese, along with:

  • なら (nara)
  • と (to)
  • ば (ba)

However, there are important differences between these various forms.

In this post we learn more about the meaning of たら, how it is formed, and when たら is used through real example sentences.


How たら is formed

たら is used with nouns, verbs, and adjectives. Its conjugation involves using the ta form (た), which translates the past tense:

Verb[た]+
Adjective in い[た]+
Adjective in な+だった+
Noun+だった+

Now let's see some examples of conjugations of たら:

(おく)れる
(おく)
(おく)
(おく)れた
(さむ)
(さむ)
(さむ)かった
(さむ)かった
()
()だった
()だった
()(した)
()(した)だった
()(した)だった

How and when to use たら

As mentioned in the introduction, たら is one of the various conditional forms in Japanese.

たら is the conditional form most often used to translate "if" (if you do something...)

Depending on the context, たら can be translated either as if or as when.

Sequence of events with たら

The event expressed by たら must start before the event expressed after たら. This is because たら implies a temporal order in the indicated events (unlike なら)

たら in fact indicates a condition, situation, or event that is required to happen in order for what is expressed afterwards to happen as well.

If(A)
たら
Then(B)
()(かん)があったら、する。

If I have time, I'll do it.

We can therefore note that there is a sequentiality in the expressed events: first (A) happens, and then, if (A) occurs, it is possible that (B) also happens.

(べん)(きょう)したら、テストは(かん)(たん)になる。

When you start studying the test will become easy.

This sentence can also be translated with the use of if:

(べん)(きょう)したら、テストは(かん)(たん)になる。

If you start studying the test will become easy.

たら can also be in the form たらば in formal situations.

たら and なら - Difference

As mentioned, たら implies a sequence in the actions indicated: first A happens, and then B can happen. This rule does not apply to なら.

With なら we can express any order in the indicated events, unlike たら.
日本(にほん)()くなら、()(まえ)日本語(にほんご)(べん)(きょう)した(ほう)がいい。

If I go to Japan, I'd better study Japanese first.

In this example the order of actions is: first I study Japanese(A), and then I go to Japan(B).

For this reason, in this sentence you cannot use たら, since the first indicated action occurs after the second.

たら: "if A happens, then B happens or can happen" or "when A is finished, then it happens or I will do B".
なら: "if you think or intend to do A, then B".

Let's see another example to better understand the difference between たら and なら:

()てたら、(ちょう)(だい)

If you throw it away, after throwing it, give it to me. (⛔️)

In this example the use of たら is incorrect. Since たら implies a sequence in the events, the action of give it to me ((ちょう)(だい)) occurs after the action of throwing it (()てる).

In this case it makes more sense to use なら: if your intention is to throw it away, then give it to me.

たら for unexpected situations

With たら you cannot describe a situation in which you are in control of the result.

たら in fact indicates an unexpected situation: たら shows that what happened (B)would not have happened if(A)had not happened.

たら, と and なら

たら indicates an event which has not yet happened and which is still hypothetical, potentially unrealistic. This feature makes たら different from と and なら, which instead indicate a certain condition (in the case of と) and an intention or a suggestion (in the case of なら).

たら is the conditional generally most used to indicate a hypothetical situation: "if A, then B"

もし(も) in hypothetical situations

Very often the adverb もし(も) is added at the beginning of the sentence when using たら. The use of もし(も) serves to indicate that we are talking about a hypothetical condition, and we are stating this fact from the beginning of the sentence.

もし(も) emphasizes that the situation is hypothetical. It is used to be more cordial or to show uncertainty.

This adverb is used to avoid communication problems with the use of たら, showing explicitly and immediately at the beginning of the sentence that what we are about to say is hypothetical.


Examples of たら

(かね)(もち)になったら、(しろ)()う!

If I were rich, I would buy myself a castle!

()ったら()()(した)(はや)()きして(かえ)りゃいい。

When you've eaten, go to sleep, tomorrow it's good if you get up early and go home.

(なお)らない(おに)になったら(じん)(かん)(もど)ることはない。

You can't cure it, when you become a demon there is no way to turn back to being a human again.

この調(ちょう)()(わな)にかかっていたら(あさ)までに(やま)(くだ)れない。

If I get stuck in a trap in this situation, I won't be able to come down the mountain before morning.

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