Using なら for Conditions

    • Verb
    • Adjective
    • Noun
    なら is often translated as "if" and used to state the condition needed for a certain to take place. When using なら, speakers state their subjective opinions about something based on the condition they assume to happen.

    Table of Contents

    What Is なら?

    なら is attached to the sentence which describes the condition where certain events or situations happen. It is often translated as "if."

    なら can be used with nouns, い-adjectives, な-adjectives, and verbs. To make sentences, put なら after the dictionary form of these words.

    Verb 行く + なら = 行くなら
    Noun 夏 + なら = 夏なら
    な-adjective 不安 + なら = 不安なら
    い-adjective 難しい + なら = 難しいなら

    You can make negative sentences by conjugating the words with ない.

    Verb 行かない + なら = 行かないなら
    Noun 夏じゃない + なら = 夏じゃないなら
    な-adjective 不安じゃない + なら = 不安じゃないなら
    い-adjective 難しくない + なら = 難しくないなら

    When describing something in the past, you have to change these forms into the past tense.

    Verb 行った + なら = 行ったなら
    Noun 夏だった + なら = 夏だったなら
    な-adjective 不安だった + なら = 不安だったなら
    い-adjective 難しかった + なら = 難しかったなら

    なら for Describing Conditions

    As we mentioned, なら is used to indicate a condition where a certain situation or event happens.

    • 寒いならこれを着てください。
    • Please put this on if you are cold.
    • あなたが嬉しいなら、私も嬉しいです。
    • If you are happy, I'm happy too.

    While this seems straightforward, there are some restrictions on the use of なら. For example, you cannot use なら if the condition you are describing will definitely happen.

    • ❌ 春になるなら、お花見をしましょう。
    • Let's go see cherry blossoms if spring comes.

    Using なら, you indicate the possibility that the conditional event might not happen. So it's not appropriate to use in this context.

    This is also the case when using なら to describe someone's action as conditional.

    • コウイチに会うなら、メールを見るよう伝えてください。
    • If you meet with Koichi, please tell him to check his email.

    When saying this, you are assuming that your listener has a plan to meet Koichi, but you don't know if your listener actually will.

    You can say this even when you are pretty sure the listener will do what you describe. For example, imagine a situation where you saw your sister putting on her shoes. You can ask her to take out the garbage by saying:

    • 外に行くなら、ゴミ捨てて来て。
    • If you go outside, take out the garbage.

    Since an action described as a condition has to be uncertain when なら is used, the next sentence is inappropriate.

    • ❌ 私が行くなら、コウイチも行きたい。
    • If I go there, Koichi wants to go there too.

    Because it is you who is doing the action of going, you know whether the condition is true or not, thus なら should not be used. However, you can describe your own action as a condition in a context like the one below:

    • ⭕️ 私が行くなら、コウイチも行きたがると思う。
    • If I go there, I think Koichi wants to come with me.

    Here, you are describing your assumption about Koichi's action. Because the sentence itself is an assumption, the actuality of your action described as a condition is uncertain.

    In addition, なら is not appropriate when you are highlighting the causal relationship between the conditional action and the event or situation caused by that action. Imagine a situation where your friends suggested to race to their classroom, and you want to stop them by reminding them that it will make their teachers mad. It's weird to say:

    • ❌ 走るなら先生に怒られるよ。
    • The teacher will be mad if you run!

    This is because you are stating the objective fact that the action (running) causes the event, (your teacher getting mad) to convince your friend not to run in school. Since なら is used to claim subjective opinions based on the speakers' assumption of a certain condition, it does not fit the nuance of this sentence.

    However, you can use なら in the following context. Imagine that your friends insisted that they race to the classroom, and you finally gave up.

    • ⭕️ 走るなら人にぶつからないようにしなよ。
    • Try not to run into other people if you run.

    In this case, なら is appropriate because you are suggesting something for your friends, rather than reminding them of a possibility that their action might cause.

    なら for Describing Counterfactual Situations

    Just like you use "if" to state counterfactual situations, なら can be used in the same way.

    • 私があなたならそんなことはしない。
    • If I were you, I wouldn't do something like that.
    • 今日が晴れなら、キャンプへ行けたのに。
    • If it were sunny today, we could have gone camping.

    Unlike English, you don't always change the conditional part of the sentence into the past tense. Nevertheless, you can do so when you want to emphasize that the situation you are describing is not real.

    • 私が鳥だったなら、あなたのところへ飛んでいけるのに。
    • If I were a bird, I could fly to your place.

    This makes your speech sound more poetic, so the past tense is often used in writing rather than speaking.

    In speech, it is common to state only the conditional part of the sentence. When doing so, なら is often added at the end of the sentence to emphasize the speaker's regret or wish about the counterfactual situation.

    • 今日が金曜日ならなあ。
    • I wish today was Friday.

    Verb なら for Referring to Someone or Something

    You can also use なら to refer to someone or something that is mentioned in other people's speech. Imagine a situation where you left your hat on a bench. Coming back to the bench, you see a man sitting there.

    • You: あの、緑の帽子を見ませんでしたか?
      Man: その帽子なら、さっき誰かが持って行きましたよ。
    • You: Excuse me, did you see a green hat?
      Man: If it's the hat I'm thinking of, someone took it with them a while ago.

    In this context, なら is used to clarify that the guy is referring to the same hat you are referring to.

    You can also use なら when it's obvious that you and your listener are talking about the same thing or person.

    • Moe: マミ、仕事大変そうだね。大丈夫かな。
      Jen: マミなら大丈夫でしょ。
    • Moe: Mami looks busy. Do you think she is okay?
      Jen: (If it's Mami), she can handle it.

    In this case, Jen is referring to not only Mami herself as a figure but also what she knows about Mami, and assuming Mami is okay based on that knowledge. Jen's speech also indicates that other people might have trouble handling that situation.

    なら can also be used to suggest an alternate idea when referring to something or someone new which you bring into the conversation.

    • A: 金曜日出かけない?
      B: うーん、土曜日ならいいよ。
    • A: Do you want to go out with me on Friday?
      B: Well, I'll go if it's Saturday.

    In this case, you are refusing your friend's suggestion but simultaneously providing a possible condition where you can go out with your friend.