Can someone help explain this conditional grammar point? (Ba vs Tara)

Why is sentence 2 ungrammatical but sentence 4 correct? Both have a suggestion in the main clause, yet sentence 4 has an event (nice weather) in the Ba clause. Or is nice weather not an event? I get that “If Yamada-san comes” is an action, and therefore ungrammatical according to this explanation.


I’ll take a crack at this.

The ば conditional structure is something that’s often used for natural (i.e. obvious, well-established, 当たり前) cause-and-effect relationships. It’s generally used with desirable consequences, and tends to place emphasis on the condition (i.e. what comes before ば). It frequently sort of sets the stage: once the condition is fulfilled, it’s only natural that the consequence follows. たら, on the other hand, can be used for specific cause-and-effect relationships that don’t have to be natural or obvious. That’s why たら has a broader set of use cases.

I’m not sure if this is the reason for the ungrammaticality, but I think we can agree that a suggestion, an instruction or a request is not a natural consequence of any sort of action/event condition, which is probably why ば can’t be used in those cases. On the other hand, if the condition is a particular state, typically a background state of some sort, then it’s OK to use ば. That’s what you’re seeing in sentence 4. I think the definition of ‘action’ or ‘event’ that we need to keep in mind is ‘something that can be marked on a timeline at a particular point in time, that is either done or undone, or that has either occurred or not occurred’. I tend to think of these things as point actions. Statements involving adjectives or state verbs like ある、いる and である (and I think できる and other potential verbs) don’t fall into this category and – at least in my opinion – allow ば to perform its ‘stage-setting’ function by expressing a bare-minimum condition that doesn’t imply any sort of strong and yet unnatural causation between an occurrence and a hypothetical statement (which is essentially what a suggestion, instruction or request is, since we don’t know if it’ll become reality). Does that make sense?


Thank you! That makes perfect sense to me. I appreciate the well articulated response :fist_right: :fist_left:

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Hello again. I just realised that I made a minor mistake/oversimplification: I’m not sure where you got that picture from (is it from a textbook you’re using?), but another common exception to the ‘no hopes, requests, suggestions, desires, commands etc’ rule is ‘when the subjects of the conditional verb and the main clause verb are different, the rule doesn’t apply’. Therefore, technically, this is one of those cases, since 山田さん isn’t the subject of the main clause. If you’re working on this book with a teacher, I suggest you clarify this during a lesson, but I think the real reason sentence 2 is ‘ungrammatical’ is what I said: there isn’t strong enough causality between the first and second half. Using ば tends to make the fulfilment of the condition sound a bit more uncertain and, at least based on the examples I ran through on Maggie Sensei’s site just now, typically presents the condition as a sufficient condition.

I hope I’m not confusing you, but I just figured it would only be fair to put this consideration out there, especially if it’s not mentioned by your textbook.

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