Making suggestions

We just learned various ways to make a request. Now, we are going to look at some ways to make suggestions or recommendations.

How about it?

The simplest way to make a suggestion is by using the word “how”: 「どう」. We already learned the grammar we need to do this with the 「の」 particle.


  1. 5時に会うのはどう
    How about meeting at 5:00?
  2. 先生に相談してみるのはどうですか。
    How about trying to confer with (the) teacher?

Another very similar pattern is to use the 「たら」 conditional to ask, “how about if”.


  1. 5時に会ったらどう
    How about if (we) meet at 5:00?
  2. 先生に相談してみたらどうですか。
    How about if (you) try to confer with (the) teacher.

It’s better to do this

Another option is to use a comparison 「方」 to say it’s better to do one thing versus the alternative. Using the past tense of the verb in this pattern makes the suggestion more particular to the situation at hand and hence makes it sound a bit stronger.


  1. 病院に行った方がいいよ。
    It’s better (for you) to go to hospital. (You should go to the hospital.)
  2. 病院に行く方がいいよ。
    It’s better to go to hospital.
  3. ひざが痛いですけど、病院に行った方がいいですか。
    (My) knee hurts but is (it) better to go to the hospital?

Asking for suggestions

We just learned how to ask if it’s better to do one thing by using a comparison with 「いい」. We can also ask for suggestions on what to do by using the conditional and 「いい」 as shown in the examples below.


  1. 9時に行けばいいの?
    I should go at 9 o’clock?
    lit: If (I) go at 9 o’clock, is (it) good?
  2. どうすればいいですか。
    What should (I) do?
    lit: If (I) do how, will (it) be good?
  3. ジャズは何から聴いたらいいですか。
    What should (I) start listening from for Jazz?
    lit: As for Jazz, if (I) start listening from what, is (it) good?












Making firm requests

While we learned how to ask for favors in the last section, in this section we’ll learn various ways to make firmer requests in the form of a statement.

Using 「ください」 to make a firm request

「ください」(下さい) is a polite way to make a firm request for something. It can also be used with the te-form of a verb to request an action. It can be written in either Kanji or Hiragana though it’s more common to use Hiragana when combined with a verb.


  1. あのペンを下さい
    Please give me that pen.
  2. あのペンを使ってください
    Please use that pen.

Negative verb with 「ください」

In order to ask to not do something, take the negative of the word, attach 「で」, then attach 「ください」 similar to the rule we learned in the last section.


  1. ボールペンは使わないでください
    Please don’t use (a) pen.
  2. 着替え中ですから入らないでください
    (I’m) changing so please don’t come in.

Casual version of 「ください」

「ください」 is a polite expression so in order to say the same thing for casual situation, we can simply drop 「ください」 entirely.

  1. あのペンを使って
    Please use that pen.
  2. ボールペンは使わないで
    Please don’t use (a) pen.

Using 「ちょうだい」 for casual requests

「ちょうだい」 can be used instead of 「ください」 for casual speech. While 「ちょうだい」 can be used by anyone, it does have a slight feminine and childish nuance.


  1. あのペンをちょうだい
    Give me that pen.
  2. あのペンを使ってちょうだい
    Use that pen.

Doing favors for others

We can use the three words we just learned for giving and receiving with other verbs to express the action as a favor. This construction is used to make requests and do things for others.

Giving and receiving favors

In order to use one of the three words we learned for giving and receiving with another verb, first change the verb to the te-form and then attach the word for giving or receiving to the end of the verb.


  1. 頭が悪いから先生が特別に説明をしてくれた
    (I’m) not smart so (the) teacher explained (it) specially for me.
  2. お金がないから、昼ご飯をおごってくれる
    (I) don’t have money so will (you) treat me to lunch for me?
  3. これが欲しいなら、買ってあげるよ。
    If (you) want this, (I will) buy (it) for you, you know.
  4. 今はちょっと手が離せないので、後で電話してもらえますか。
    (I’m) in the middle of something now so can you call (me) later?

Requesting to not do something

In order to express the negative, ie to give the favor of not doing the action, change the verb to the negative, attach 「で」, then the word for giving or receiving.


  1. 突然変なことを言わないでくれる
    Can you not say strange thing(s) all of a sudden?
  2. 勉強しているからうるさくしないでくれる
    (I’m) studying so can you not do noisily for me?
  3. 今月の家計はきついからしばらくはお金を使わないでもらえる
    This month’s family finance is tight so can (I) receive favor of not using money for a while?


父: おい、アリス!

アリス: 何よ?

父: そこの窓を閉めてくれないか?

アリス: わざわざ目の前にある窓を閉めてもらうために私を大声で呼んだの?しかも、別の部屋から。

父: いいことを教えてあげよう。お前もいつか子供が出来たらこんなのも出来るんだって。

アリス: 自分の子供をこき使うのがそんなにいいの?

父: こき使うって、お前、学校で日本語の勉強を始めたら、妙なことを言うようになったな。他の生徒から変な日本語を習っていないだろうか?

アリス: ・・・さすがにそれはないと思う。

Toggle Translations

Father: Hey, Alice!

Alice: What?

Father: Can you close that window (for me)?

Alice: (You) went out of your way to call with loud voice to (receive favor of) closing window in front of (your) eyes? Not to mention, from (a) separate room.

Father: Let me (give you favor of) teaching good thing. That when you have kids one day, you can do this kind of thing.

Alice: Is it so good to push around your own child like that?

Father: Push around… (you’ve) started saying some strange things once (you) started learning Japanese. (You’re) not learning strange Japanese from the other students, right?

Alice: …That I’m pretty sure is not the case.

Giving and Receiving

Giving and receiving whether it’s objects or favors is a bit more complicated in Japanese because you need to be aware of the social status between the giver and the receiver. Basically, there are two words for giving and one word for receiving listed below.


  1. あげる (ru-verb) – to give; to raise
  2. くれる (ru-verb) – to give
  3. もらう (u-verb) – to receive

In this section, we’ll look at examples of when to use which words for giving and receiving.

Using 「あげる」 to give “upwards”

The word 「あげる」, which also means to “raise” is used when giving upwards to a person of a higher social status. The important thing to remember is that the speaker is always below everybody else. As a result, when the speaker is giving something to somebody else, he/she must always use 「あげる」. In other words, when you, yourself, is giving something, you must always use 「あげる」.


  1. これをあげるよ。
    (I’ll) give this to (you).
  2. 私は、昨日弟にプレゼントをあげたよ。
    I gave (my) younger brother (the) present yesterday, you know.
  3. 私が買った飲み物だから、あげませんよ。
    I bought (the) drink so (I’m) not going to give it (to you).

Using 「くれる」 to give “downwards”

The word 「くれる」 is used to give downwards to a person of a lower social status. Once again, because the speaker is at the bottom, everything given to the speaker will always use 「くれる」. In other words, everything given to you must be expressed with 「くれる」.


  1. それをくれるの?
    (Are you) giving that to (me)?
  2. 彼氏は、私の誕生日に何もくれなかったよ!
    (My) boyfriend didn’t give my anything on my birthday!
  3. もうすこし時間をくれませんか?
    Can (you) give (me) a little more time?

Using 「もらう」 to receive

There is only one word for receiving something so you don’t have to worry about which one to use.


  1. 友達からチケットをもらった
    (I) received (a) ticket from friend.
  2. もう高校生だから、今年はお年玉をもらえなかった
    Because (I’m) already (a) high school student, (I) couldn’t receive (the) New Year’s gift.

Comic 14 – バレンタインとホワイトデー

White Day is a holiday a month after Valentine’s day where men who received chocolate are expected to return the favor by giving gifts.


art by Josh Khoo
  1. 明日 【あした】 – tomorrow
  2. バレンタイン – Valentine’s (Day)
  3. 何 【なに】 – what
  4. チョコ – chocolate
  5. あげる (ru-verb) – to give; to raise
  6. 義理 【ぎ・り】 – duty; obligation
  7. くれる (ru-verb) – to give
  8. もらう (u-verb) – to receive
  9. 嬉しい 【うれ・しい】 (i-adj) – happy
  10. いや – no (casual)
  11. 全然 【ぜん・ぜん】 (adv) – 1) not at all (negative), 2) entirely, completely
  12. そう – so
  13. ホワイトデー – White Day
  14. 素敵 【す・てき】 (i-adj) – lovely; splendid
  15. お返し 【お・かえ・し】 – return gift; return favor
  16. お楽しみ 【お・たの・しみ】 – enjoyment, pleasure
  17. お楽しみにする 【お・たの・しみにする】 (exp) – to look forward to
  18. ちょっと – a little
  19. 待つ 【ま・つ】 (u-verb) – to wait

John: Tomorrow is Valentine, isn’t it?

Alice: So? (I’m) won’t give (you) chocolate.

John: Not even obligatory chocolate?

Alice: (You) won’t be happy to get (an) obligatory chocolate, right?

John: No, (I’ll) be totally happy, you know?

Alice: Is that so? Ok, (I) will be looking forward to (a) splendid return gift on White Day, then.

John: Huh? Wait a moment. What’s White Day?

Choosing the right words for giving and receiving

Choosing the right words for giving and receiving can be a bit confusing at first so lets look at a few ways to help you decide which word to use for giving and receiving.

Deciding between giving and receiving

In English, giving and receiving is simply a difference of viewpoint. For example, “I received a present from John” means practically the same thing as “John gave me a present” The same applies for Japanese as shown in the examples below.

  1. ジョンにプレゼントをもらった
    (I) received present from John.
  2. ジョンがプレゼントをくれた
    John gave (me) present.

Translated to English, both sentences essentially mean “John bought present for me”. While the viewpoint is reversed, essentially they are saying the same thing.

We don’t have to worry about which word to use for receiving because there is only one. So let’s look at how to decide which word to use for giving.

Giving from the speaker’s point of view

The easiest and most common scenario is when you, yourself is the one giving or receiving. As previously mentioned, because the speaker is always at the bottom, he/she will always use 「あげる」 to give to others and 「くれる」 when others give to the speaker.

  1. 私にくれるの?
    Are (you) giving (it) to me?
  2. 私があげるの?
    I’m giving (it) to you?

Using the same logic, it’s safe to say the following will always be incorrect regardless of the social status of the other person.

  1. 私にあげるの?
  2. 私がくれるの?

Giving from 3rd person’s point of view

The only scenario left is when both the giver and receiver is different from the speaker. This is the only ambiguous scenario where either 「くれる」 or 「あげる」 can be used. Basically, the speaker must choose which viewpoint he/she wants to look at the situation from.

For example, let’s say you wanted to know if Aさん gave Bさん a present. If you were asking Aさん, you would use 「あげる」 because you are looking at it from Aさん’s perspective as the giver.

Aさんは、Bさんにプレゼントをあげましたか? (Asking Aさん)

If you were asking Bさん, you would use 「くれる」 because you are looking at it from Bさん’s perspective as the receiver.

Aさんは、Bさんにプレゼントをくれましたか? (Asking Bさん)

In summary, deciding which word to use in this scenario can be described in two steps.

  1. Pick a perspective either as the giver or receiver
  2. Use 「あげる」 if from giver’s perspective or 「くれる」 if from receiver’s perspective (same as if you were the giver)

Required actions

We learned how to say we don’t have to do something in the last section but we did not cover how to talk about things that have to be done. Because of the way it’s phrased in Japanese, the grammar for saying something has to be done is completely different than the grammar for saying something doesn’t have to be done.

First, let’s look at how to express something that one must not do.

Things that one must not do

Things that one must not do are expressed by using one of the three words: 「いけない」、「ならない」、 and 「だめ」. These are all negative expressions (the first two is actually using the negative form) meaning that something won’t do or is no good. Conjugating these expressions are simple if we know where they originate from.

  1. いける (ru-verb) – can work; can make it; lit: can go (potential form of 「行く」)
  2. なる (u-verb) – to become
  3. 駄目 【だ・め】 (na-adj) – no good

While we can use 「いけない」 and 「だめ」 by themselves as shown in the examples below 「ならない」 cannot be used by itself.


  1. ここで携帯を使うのはだめ
    Is using cell phone here bad?
  2. それはいけませんね。
    That’s wrong/bad/no good.
  3. ご両親に教えたのがいけなかったんだよ。
    Telling (your) parents is what was no good.

We can use either of the three words with verbs to say that action is no good or in essence, “one must not do the action” by using the following rule.

How to say: Must not [verb]

  • Take the te-form of the verb, add the 「は」 (wa) particle and then attach either 「いけない」、「ならない」、 or 「だめ」.

    1. 食べて+は+いけない/ならない/だめ
      = 食べてはいけない、食べてはならない、食べてはだめ
    2. 買って+は+いけない/ならない/だめ
      = 買ってはいけない、買ってはならない、買ってはだめ
    3. して+は+いけない/ならない/だめ
      = してはいけない、してはならない、してはだめ


  1. 男の人はここに入ってはいけませんよ。
    Men must not enter here, you know.
  2. お酒を飲んだ人は、車を運転してはならない
    People who drank alcohol must not drive cars.

  3. 悪い言葉を生徒に教えてはだめですよ。
    (You) must not teach students bad words, you know.

Things that must be done

In order to say that something must be done, we say not doing something is bad by using the previous grammar we just learned but with negative verbs. You can also use two of the conditionals we learned in the last chapter. This grammar may be a bit confusing at first because we need to use double negatives to say one must do something.

How to say: Must [verb]

  1. Negative te-form +「は」 (wa) particle + いけない/ならない/だめ
  2. Negative verb + 「と」(conditional) + いけない/ならない/だめ
  3. Negative verb + 「ば」 conditional + いけない/ならない/だめ

art by Josh Khoo

Comic 13

  1. 先生 【せん・せい】 – teacher
  2. トイレ – toilet; bathroom
  3. 行く 【い・く】 – to go
  4. いい (i-adj) – good
  5. また – again
  6. 駄目 【だ・め】 (na-adj) – no good
  7. 無駄 【む・だ】 (na-adj) – futile
  8. 短い 【みじか・い】 (i-adj) – short
  9. 間 【あいだ】 – interval (between)
  10. 宿題 【しゅく・だい】 (n) – homework
  11. 出来る 【で・き・る】 (ru-verb) – to be able to do

John: Teacher, can (I) go to the bathroom?

Teacher: (You) have to go again?

Alice: (It’s) useless, you know. (You) can’t do something like homework in (the) short interval of going to the bathroom.


  1. この薬は一日に三回飲まなくてはなりません
    (You) have to take this medicine 3 times a day.
  2. 明日までに宿題をしないといけない
    (I) have to do homework by tomorrow.
  3. まだ早いのにもう帰らなければいけないんですか。
    Even though (it’s) still early, do (you) have to go home?

Casual variatons

There are a couple of casual variations of the grammar we just learned listed below.

Casual shortcuts for required actions

  1. Replace 「ては」 with 「ちゃ」
  2. Replace 「ければ」 with 「きゃ」


  1. 男の人はここに入っちゃだめよ。
    Men must not enter here, you know.
  2. まだ早いのにもう帰らなきゃいけないの?
    Even though (it’s) still early, do (you) have to go home?

Things can get quite lengthy with the double negative required to describe an action that must be done. When using the casual variations with the negative, you can also omit the 「いけない/ならない/だめ」 part of the grammar. This also applies to the 「と」 conditional.


  1. もっと勉強しなくちゃ
    (I) have to study more.
  2. 明日までに宿題をしないと
    (I) have to do homework by tomorrow.
  3. もう帰らなきゃ.
    (I) have to go home already.


Things of no consequence

The expressions “even if”, “regardless”, or “no matter” are used when something is of no consequence to something else. In Japanese, the same notion is expressed by combining the te-form with the 「も」 inclusive particle.


  1. 東京 【とう・きょう】 – Tokyo
  2. どこ – where
  3. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) – to go
  4. とても – very
  5. 込む 【こ・む】 (u-verb) – to become crowded
  6. 気 【き】 – mood; intent
  7. する (exception) – to do
  8. 何回 【なん・かい】 – how many number of times
  9. 聞く 【き・く】 (u-verb) – to ask; to listen
  10. 答え 【こた・え】 – answer
  11. 同じ 【おな・じ】 – same
  12. 大学 【だい・がく】 – college
  13. いい (i-adj) – good
  14. 仕事 【し・ごと】 – job
  15. 見つかる 【み・つかる】 (u-verb) – to be found
  16. この – this (abbr. of これの)
  17. アルバイト – part-time job
  18. 学生 【がく・せい】 – student
  19. 出来る 【で・き・る】 (ru-verb) – to be able to do
  1. 東京は、どこに行ってもとても込んでいる気がする。
    As for Tokyo, (it) feels like it’s crowded wherever (you) go.
  2. 何回も聞いても答えは同じだよ。
    Answer is the same no matter how many times (you) ask.
  3. 大学に行かなくても、いい仕事は見つかりますか?
    Will (I) find (a) good job even if (I) don’t go to college?
  4. このアルバイトは、学生でも出来ますか?
    Can (I) do this part-time job even if (I’m a) student?

Asking for permission

We can also ask for or grant permission by saying it’s ok or fine even if we do a certain action using the same 「~ても/~でも」 grammar.


  1. トイレに行ってもいいですか。
    Is it fine even if (I) go to the toilet?
  2. お姉さんが、食べてもいいと言ったよ。
    Older sister said it’s fine to eat (it).
  3. くても来週までは大丈夫だ。
    Even if it’s late, it’s fine until next week.
  4. 身分証は、学生証でも大丈夫ですか。
    As for identification, it is ok even if it’s (a) student id?

Things we don’t have to do

If we say it’s ok or fine even if we don’t do something by using the negative form, it means we don’t have to do it.


  1. 何もしなくてもいい
    Don’t have to do anything.
    lit: (It’s) good even if (you) do nothing.
  2. 明日は休日だから、来なくても大丈夫ですよ。
    Tomorrow is (a) holiday, so (you) don’t have to come, you know.
    lit: Because tomorrow is (a) holiday, (it’s) ok even if (you) don’t come.

Chapter Overview

In this chapter, we will learn how to talk about things that one may or may not have to do. This includes asking for favors, making requests and suggestions, and the various command forms.

Chapter summary and practice

In this chapter, we learned how to deal with uncertainty in various ways. I’m sure we can all think of many situations where things are not 100% certain. Common scenarios include talking about the weather, news, and the future.

Below is a list of sample topics you can write about or discuss with your conversation partner (either in casual or polite form as appropriate).

  1. 何ヶ国語話せますか。
    How many languages can (you) speak?
  2. 死ぬ前に一回してみたいことはある?
    Is there something (you) would like to try doing before (you) die.
  3. うっかりしてしまったとても恥ずかしいこと。
    Something very embarrassing (you) did inadvertently.
  4. 百万長者だったら何をしますか。
    What would (you) do if (you) were a millionaire?
  5. どんな願いでも一つだけ叶えたら、何を願いますか。
    If (you) could grant any one wish, what (would you) wish for?

Distinguishing similar grammar

In this chapter, we learned many different ways to say similar things. In teaching, it’s convenient to group similar concepts and cover them together. However, when it comes time to use them in practice, it can create confusion as learners try to decide which grammar to use and get caught up in trying to find the difference between similar concepts.

Let’s take a look at some examples and why one grammar is more appropriate over others in various situations. It’s important to keep in mind that there is often no one right answer as it really depends on what you want to say exactly.

Like, it’s not like I like it like that

“Like” is a word in English that has many usages and can even be overused. With words like this, it’s natural that other languages have many different types of grammar that all translate to the same word in English. Therefore, we need to learn to make distinctions that we usually don’t think about.

  • Is it an impression of the future or guess (with some uncertainty)? Use 「~そう」.
    1. これ、おいしそうですね!
      This looks tasty! (haven’t tasted yet)
    2. ここにはなさそうだけど、もう一度探してみるよ。
      It doesn’t seem to be here but (I’ll) look one more time. (guessing)
    3. 楽しそうだな。私も行こうかな?
      Seems like fun (impression). I wonder if I should go too?
  • Is it based on hearsay? Use 「らしい」 or 「だ/た+そう」. Use the former if it’s an impression based on general hearsay and the latter if heard from a specific person.
    1. そこのお店は、結構安いらしいよ。
      (I) heard (in general) that that store is pretty cheap.
    2. 昨日はかなり大変だったそうよ。
      (I) heard (from someone) that yesterday was very rough.
  • Is it resembling behavior ie “acting like a…” or trigger an emotion? Use 「らしい」.
    1. どうした?君らしくないな。
      What’s the matter? (It’s) not like you. (behavior).
    2. そのドレス、とてもかわいらしいよ。
      That dress is very cute! (triggers feeling of cuteness)
  • Is it a resemblance in appearance or manner? Use 「みたい」, 「よう」 (polite/formal), or 「っぽい」 (slang). This is also more generic and can be in other situations without the connotations of other grammar.
    1. 明日は雨みたいです。
      Looks like tomorrow is rain.
    2. こちらのチームは苦戦しているようですが、どうしますか。
      It appears our team is having a hard fight so what should (we) do?
    3. その服は、ちょっと男っぽくない
      Don’t those clothes look a bit manly?

Are you trying hard enough?

We learned several grammar that all mean “try” but with difference nuances such as “try” vs “attempt”. While they are often interchangeable, the difference is mostly due to how much effort is exerted.

  • Is it a light effort, experimentation, or just trying something new? Use 「te-form+みる」.
    1. ちょっとやってみるよ。
      I’ll give it a shot.
    2. これを食べてみて。おいしいよ!
      Try eating this. It’s tasty!
    3. ドアを開けてみて
      Try opening the door.
  • Is it an attempt with concerted effort or setting about to do something (just before actually starting)? Use 「volitional + とする」
    1. ドアを開けようとした
      Attempted to open the door (such as forcing it open).
    2. 話しかけようとしたら、突然電話が鳴った。
      When (I) set out to talk to him/her, (the) phone suddenly rang.
  • Is it a goal or an attempt to reach a certain state such as behavior? Use 「ように(する/なる)」
    1. あまり大きい音を出さないようにしてね。
      Try not to make a big sound, ok?
    2. 最近はもっと社交的になろうとしているんだけど、会話が苦手でなかなか難しい。
      Lately, (I’ve) been trying to be more social but (I’m) bad at conversation and (it’s) pretty hard.

In that case, when and/or if then…

The conditionals are extremely tricky because of the 4 different types and all the various conjugations. We already looked at some examples using various scenarios. To further simplify things, let’s start by looking at the conditionals that are most distinctive and easy to separate.

  • Is it a supposition ie, “if that’s the case…”? Use 「なら(ば)」. 「ならば」 is very formal so usually just 「なら」.
    1. それなら、仕方がないね。
      Well in that case, (I) guess (it) can’t be helped.
  • Is it a natural consequence ie, “when not if”? Use 「と」. Also, casual speech often uses 「と」 just because it’s the shortest.
    1. スーパーなら、その角を右に曲がるとすぐそこにあるよ。
      If you mean (the) supermarket, if (you) turn right at that corner, (it’s) right there.
    2. メガネがないと、何も見えないでしょう?
      With no glasses, (you) can’t see anything, right?
  • Did it already happen? Use 「たら(ば)」.「たらば」 is very formal so usually just 「たら」.
    1. 今朝起きたら、顔にニキビが付いていた。
      When (I) woke up this morning, (a) pimple was attached to (my) face.
  • Is it a generic “if” statement? Use 「ば/たら(ば)」. These are usually pretty interchangeable though there are some very slight differences.
    1. もっとお金があれば、色んな欲しいものが買えるのにな。
      If (I) have more money, (I) could buy various things I want.
    2. もっとお金があったら、色んな欲しいものが買えるのにな。
      If (I) had more money, (I) could buy various things I want.

Phrasing questions

When we want to talk about a question in a larger sentence, we can treat the sentence as a phrase by using the 「か」 question marker.


  1. 田中さんはいつ来る、分かりますか。
    Do (you) know when Tanaka-san is coming?
  2. 来年、日本に留学しに行く、悩んでいる。
    (I’m) agonizing whether I should go to Japan next year for study abroad.

When it’s a yes/no question, you can append an optional 「どうか」 to represent the other choice.


  1. 悩む 【なや・む】 – to be troubled over something, to agonize over a decision
  2. 留学 【りゅう・がく】 – study abroad
  1. 田中さんは、明日来るかどうか、分かりますか。
    Do (you) know whether Tanaka-san is coming tomorrow or not?
  2. 来年、日本に留学しに行くかどうか、悩んでいる。
    (I’m) agonizing whether I should go to Japan next year for study abroad or not.
  3. 日本に行きたいかどうか、分かりません。
    Whether (I) want to go to Japan or not, (I) don’t know.

Comic 12 – 「彼女」の意味

  1. 彼女 【かの・じょ】 – she; girlfriend
  2. ガールフレンド – girlfriend
  3. 両方 【りょう・ほう】 – both sides
  4. 意味 【い・み】 – meaning
  5. 持つ 【も・つ】(u-verb) – to hold
  6. 余計 【よ・けい】 (na-adj) – too much, unnecessary, excess
  7. 紛らわしい 【まぎ・らわしい】 (i-adj) confusing, misleading
  8. コンテキスト – context
  9. 大体 【だい・たい】 – general; substantially
  10. 分かる 【わ・かる】 (u-verb) – to understand
  11. それに – besides; moreover
  12. どっち – which (way)
  13. 相手 【あい・て】 – other party
  14. 聞く 【き・く】 (u-verb) – to ask; to listen
  15. 確認 【かく・にん】 – confirmation
  16. 出来る 【で・き・る】 (ru-verb) – to be able to do
  17. そう – (things are) that way
  18. そんな – that sort of
  19. 質問 【しつ・もん】 – question
  20. じゃ – short for では (informal)
  21. 結局 【けっ・きょく】 – eventually; in the end

John: 彼女 holds both meaning of “she” and “girlfriend” so (it’s) unnecessarily confusing.

Alice: Wouldn’t (you) mostly understand by context? Moreover, if (you) don’t understand, (you) can confirm by asking the other (person) which (it is), right?

John: That’s so, isn’t it? If (I) ask is she/girlfriend she/girlfriend, (I) will understand, won’t (I)?

Alice: By that kind of question, (you) won’t know which is which in the end, right?


There are four ways to express conditional in Japanese, each with a slightly different meaning and used in different situations.

General Conditional

The most generic conditional without any assumptions or embedded meanings is the 「~ば」 conditional. The conjugation rules for the 「ば」 conditional is below.

Conjugation rules for 「ば」

  • For verbs: change the last /u/ vowel sound to the /e/ vowel sound and append 「ば」

    1. 食べ → 食べ → 食べれ+ = 食べれば
    2.  → 待 → 待て+ = 待てば
    3.  → す → すれ+ = すれば
  • For i-adjectives and negatives ending in 「ない」: drop the last 「い」 and append 「ければ」

    1. おいし → おいし+ければ = おいしければ
    2. 食べな → 食べな+ければ = 食べなければ
    3.  → な+ければ = なければ
  • For nouns and na-adjectives: append 「であれば」

    1. 学生 → 学生であれば
    2. 暇 → 暇であれば


  1. 早めに電話すれば、予約が簡単にできるよ。
    If (you) call early, (you) can make (a) reservation easily.
  2. 明日は忙しくなければ、映画を見に行かない?
    If tomorrow is not busy, won’t (you) to go to watch movie?
  3. 親切な人であれば、友達になれると思う。
    If (he/she) is (a) nice person, (I) think (we) can become friends.

Past Conditional

The past conditional is created by adding 「ら」 to the past tense form of a verb, noun, or adjective. The full form is 「らば」 but the 「ば」 is usually omitted.

This form can also used in the past tense to describe something that was unexpected instead of a condition.

Past conditional conjugation rule
Change the noun, adjective, or verb to its past tense and append 「ら(ば)」

  1. 友達だった+ = 友達だったら
  2. 忙しかった → 忙しかった+ = 忙しかったら
  3. 食べた → 食べた+ = 食べたら
  4. 読んだ → 読んだ+ = 読んだら
  5. 暇じゃなかった+ = 暇じゃなかったら


  1. 今日は忙しかったら、明日会いましょう。
    If (you) are busy today, let’s meet tomorrow.
  2. 行きたくなかったら、どうして行きたいと言ったの?
    If (you) didn’t want to go, why did (you) say (you) wanted to go?
  3. 家に帰ったら、犬がごみを散らかしていた。
    When (I) returned home, (the) dog was scattering around (the) garbage.

Contextual conditional

The contextual conditional is used by appending 「なら(ば)」 to a noun, verb, or adjective. The full form is 「ならば」 but the 「ば」 is usually omitted.

This conditional is used to describe something in a given context. Often, there is no actual conditional, ie “Well, if that’s the case, then…” or “Given that…”

Contextual conditional usage rule
Append 「なら(ば)」 to the noun, verb, or adjective

  1. 友達+なら = 友達なら
  2. 忙しい+なら = 忙しいなら
  3. 忙しくない+なら = 忙しくないなら
  4. 食べる+なら = 食べるなら


  1. 皆が行きたくないと言うなら、私も行かないよ。
    If everybody is saying (they) don’t want to go, I won’t go as well.
  2. アリスちゃんなら、もう家に帰ったよ。
    If (you’re) referring to Alice-chan, (she) went home already, you know.
  3. 昨日起きた話なら、田中さんからもう聞いたよ。
    If (you’re) referring to (the) story of (what) happened yesterday, (I) already heard from Tanaka-san.
  4. 忙しくないなら、どうして会えないの?
    If (you’re) not busy, why can’t you meet (me)?

Natural consequence

The natural conditional is used by appending 「と」 for verbs and i-adjectives or 「だと」 for nouns and na-adjectives.

This conditional is used to describe things that happen as a natural consequence with very high certainty ie, “If you do X, Y will certainly happen.” It can also be translated as “when” in addition to “if”.

Natural conditional usage rule
Append 「と」 to the noun, verb, or adjective

  • For nouns/na-adjectives: Append 「だと」

    1. 友達+だと = 友達だと
    2. 静か+だと = 静かだと
  • For verbs/i-adjectives and negatives ending in 「ない」: Append 「と」

    1. する+ = すると
    2. しない+ = しないと
    3. 忙しい+ = 忙しいと


  1. 今から行かないと、電車に間に合わないよ。
    If (we) don’t go now starting now, (we) won’t make the train.
  2. 彼は暇だといつもゲームをしているの。
    If he’s free, (he) always plays game(s).
  3. そんなにたくさん食べると絶対太るよ。
    If (you) eat that much, (you’ll) get fat for sure.

Examples of different scenarios

It’s not often obvious nor easy to explain when you would use one type of conditional over another. The best way to master conditionals is by learning from many examples over time. To help you get started, below are a few examples to illustrate some scenarios where some conditionals are more appropriate then others. However, keep in mind, that no version is necessarily incorrect as it can depend on the context and the message the speaker is trying to convey.

学生 – student

  1. 学生であれば、学生割引が使えるよ。
    If (you) are (a) student, (you) can use student discount.
    (Generic conditional, no assumption whether you a student)
  2. ここの学生だったら、またすぐ会えるのにな。
    If only (he/she) was (a) student of here, (I) would be able to meet again soon.
    (Same as generic conditional but used for the past tense)
  3. 大学生なら、勉強をもっとすると思ったけど、全然していないよ。
    If (he/she) is a student, (I) thought (he/she) would study more but (he/she) doesn’t at all.
    (He/she is a student, ie “since he is a student…”)
  4. 学生だと、ここのラーメンは400円だよ。
    If (you) are (a) student, ramen here is 400 yen.
    (Stating a fact)

忙しい – busy

  1. 忙しくなければ、映画を見に行こう。
    If (you’re) not busy, let’s go see (a) movie.
    (Generic conditional with no assumption of whether you’re busy or not)
  2. そんなに忙しかったら、どうして昼寝をしたの?
    If (you’re) that busy, why (did you) take a nap?
    (Same as generic conditional but used for the past tense)
  3. そんなに忙しいなら、話は明日にしましょう。
    If (you’re) that busy, let’s talk tomorrow.
    (It’s known that the person is busy ie “given that you’re busy…”)
  4. 仕事で忙しくなるといつもジャンクフードを食べたくなる。
    If (I) become busy with work, (I) always want to eat junk food.
    (Predetermined outcome, ie “when busy…”)

分かる – understand

  1. 方程式が分かれば、試験は簡単だよ。
    If (you) understand (the) formula, (the) test is simple.
    (Generic conditional that can be applied to anybody)
  2. 時間と場所が分かったら、皆にメールを送るよ。
    If (I) know the time and place, (I’ll) send email to everybody.
    (Used to express what happens after, ie “once (I) know…”)
  3. 私の気持ちが分からないなら、もう話す必要がないの。
    If (you) don’t understand my feeling(s), there is no need to talk anymore.
    (The person doesn’t seem to understand, ie “since you don’t understand…”)
  4. 電話番号が分からないと連絡が出来ないでしょう?
    If (you) don’t know (the) phone number, (you) can’t contact (him/her/them), right?
    (Expressing almost 100% certainty)