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Re: [Lingo] spaces in japanese writing

On 30/06/07, steven smith <> wrote:

This week was spent going over a letter from
a friend over there and trying (mostly in vain) to sort out
the -ba form of a verb.  More book-time...

The -ba form is a strong conditional. It conveys the same overall meaning as 「A たら B」 or 「A だと B」, but with the nuance that *unless* A, B is not possible. For example (例えば):

1. ビールを十杯飲んだら、酔っ払っちゃうよ。
2. ビールを十杯飲むと、酔っ払っちゃうよ。
3. ビールを十杯飲めば、酔っ払っちゃうよ。

The first two sentences mean almost exactly the same thing: "If I
drink 10 beers, I get sooo drunk!" But the third conveys an IFF (if
and only if) condition: "It takes 10 beers to get me drunk, man! (If I
drink nine, I'm *fine*!)"

The difference really comes out in the negative:

1. 23:00の電車に乗ったら、間に合わない。
2. 23:00の電車に乗ると、間に合わない。
3. ? 23:00の電車に乗れば、間に合わない。 ?

(1) means: "If you take the 23:00 train, you won't get there on time."
(2) means the same, but conveys a more general meaning: "If one takes
the 23:00 train, one will not get there on time." You basically cannot
use (2) to speak about yourself (i.e. first-person is right out, but
second- and third-person are OK).

But (3) is really odd, because it means, literally: "The only way you
won't make it on time is if you take the 23:00 train." This sentence
is grammatical, but it is pretty hard to imagine a context in which
the one and only way to *not* accomplish B is to do A. e.g. what if
the agent in (3) is hit by a bus on the way to the train station?
Would he not then also be late? etc.

I hope this helps somewhat. It is something that is pretty easy to
understand when you read a good textbook, but I can see how an 一般の日本人
might have a hard time explaining it.


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