The expression なら (
in case that,
if that is the case.
なら is one of the many Conditional forms in Japanese. Other conditional forms are:
Form in ば
While each of these forms can be translated as
if, each of these is used in different situations and with different meanings.
なら is an abbreviation for ならば, which in turn is the hypothetical form (仮定) of なり
In this post we learn more about the meaning of なら, how it is formed, and when なら is used through real example sentences.
How なら is formed
なら can follow nouns, verbs, and adjectives. For verbs and adjectives in な it is possible to add の before なら:
Adding の makes the condition stronger (adds emphasis to the 'if ... ')
Let's now look at some examples of conjugations.
なら Verb conjugation
Conjugation of adjectives in い for なら
Conjugation of adjectives in な for なら
なら Noun conjugation
Connective Particles - 接続助詞
なら is a connective particle (接続助詞
setsuzoku joshi). Connective particles in Japanese are most often used in combination with verbs and adjectives to extend their meaning and relationship.
Other connective particles in Japanese are:
How and when to use なら
The main use of なら is for hypothetical situations. なら is translated as
when in these cases depending on the type of condition.
なら indicates that something is possible if only a certain condition is true.
なら is also called "contextual particle": this is because it is equivalent to
if you are talking about this, then ... or
if this is the context, then ....
Smoking is prohibited here. If you want to smoke, please go outside.
なら expresses an assumption on the part of the speaker. It is meant to indicate that if what I think is actually true, then I will behave in a certain way.
If it's evening I think I can come.
Under what conditions can なら be used
なら does not presuppose some temporal order of the two situations being compared (differently from たら). For this reason, you can use なら to indicate consequences for both past and future conditions.
When you go then you will understand.
In this example we see a future condition: if you go (future) then you will understand it.
If I had more money, I would have bought that pen.
This second example instead shows a past condition: if I had more money (past) then I would have bought that pen.
You cannot use なら if the expressed condition is sure to happen.
In fact, なら indicates a guess: the situation is uncertain and may not happen as expected. For this reason, なら is not used for sure conditions.
An example of a sentence with a wrong use of なら is the following:
If you practice, you will become better at writing kanji. (⛔️)
In this case, becoming good at something is the natural and direct result of practicing, it is not a hypothetical condition. For this reason, the use of なら is unnatural.
Another wrong example is the following:
If it becomes autumn (⛔️)
becoming autumn is not a hypothetical event, it is certain that sooner or later it will become autumn. Again, なら cannot be used.
なら to make suggestions or requests
なら can also be used to make suggestions or requests. In this case, the typical translation is
if you're going to do ..., then ....
Don't drink when driving.
In this example, we ask you not to drink 飲むな in case you drive 乗る.
If I were you I wouldn't do that.
なら at the end of the sentence
In spoken language, なら is commonly used at the end of a sentence to indicate regret or to express disappointment about the situation:
If only today were Friday.
Examples of なら
If you were born a man there is no option but moving forward.
That makes it easy.
If you want to buy a camera, it's best to go to Akihabara.