Using 〜たら for "If..." and "When/After..."

    • Verb
    • Adjective
    • Noun
    〜たら is used to provide a condition of events or situations. Depending on the context, 〜たら expresses different meanings such as time sequence like “when/after” and conditions like “if.”

    Table of Contents

    What Is たら?

    〜たら is a conjugation pattern which expresses a causal relationship. The action or state expressed by the sentence which precedes 〜たら is the condition of the event or situation expressed by the rest of the sentence.

    Depending on the context, it is interpreted differently—as time sequences like "when" and "after," or conditions like "if."

    For example, the time sequence interpretation is more suitable in the context below.

    • A: 勉強しなさい。
      B: ご飯食べたらする。
    • A: Do your homework.
      B: I'll do it after eating.

    However, the next sentence is interpreted as conditional.

    • A: 勉強しなさい。
      B: おこづかいくれたらする。
    • A: Do your homework.
      B: I'll do it if you give me allowance.

    In either case, however, the first clause is the condition of the situation or event described in the following clause. We'll talk more about this point later.

    To make 〜たら conjugation patterns, you first have to make present tense into past tense. You can use either the だ form or the です/ます form for verbs, nouns, and な-adjectives. Then put ら at the end. It's important to know that these conjugated patterns don't indicate if the sentence is past tense.

    だ Form:

    Verb 食べる → 食べた + ら = 食べたら
    Noun 夏だ → 夏だった + ら = 夏だったら
    な-adjective 不安だ → 不安だった + ら = 不安だったら
    い-adjective 難しい → 難しかった + ら = 難しかったら


    です / ます Form:

    Verb 食べます → 食べました + ら = 食べましたら
    Noun 夏です → 夏でした + ら = 夏でしたら
    な-adjective 不安です → 不安でした + ら = 不安でしたら
    い-adjective N/A


    Negative Form: You can make negative versions of these patterns in the same way. You first change the negative form to negative past forms. Then you put ら at the end.

    Verb 食べない → 食べなかった + ら = 食べなかったら
    Noun 夏じゃない → 夏じゃなかった + ら = 夏じゃなかったら
    な-adjective 不安じゃない → 不安じゃなかった + ら = 不安じゃなかったら
    い-adjective 難しくない → 難しくなかった + ら = 難しくなかったら


    For negative sentences, you usually don't use the です/ます forms.

    ❌ 食べませんでしたら。

    ❌ 不安じゃありませんでしたら。

    たら for "When" and "After"

    As mentioned in the beginning, 〜たら is used to provide the condition that needs to be fulfilled for other events or situations to take place. Which means the clause before 〜たら has to come first. For this reason, "after" is more suitable than "when" as a translation of the following sentence.

    • 走ったらストレッチをします。
    • ❌ I stretch when running.
      ⭕️ I stretch after running.

    However, there are also situations where "when" is more appropriate as a translation than "after"—when an event happens while another event is progressively happening, rather than completely done. In this case, you have to change 走ったら to 走っていたら.

    • 走っていたら友達に会った。
    • I ran into my friend when I was running.

    Still, the basic idea is the same—the event expressed by the clause that precedes 〜たら has to start before another event, which is described in the following clause.

    Another important thing to know: you cannot use 〜たら to describe something you have control over.

    • 勉強をしたら、疲れた。
    • I became tired after studying.
    • ❌ 勉強をしたら、遊んだ。
    • I played after studying.

    The first sentence indicates that studying makes you tired, which implies you had no control over the situation. But in the second sentence, you were able to control your actions after studying. In other words, the first action, studying, is not really a condition of the other action, playing, so 〜たら is not appropriate.

    However, this is not applied to the future tense sentences.

    • 卒業したら、留学する。
    • I'll study abroad when I graduate.

    This sentence is appropriate even though study abroad is your choice. This is because you don't have control over the actions or events of the future.

    たら for "If"

    While 〜たら always provides a condition, it is sometimes not clear how to interpret the speaker's speech. For example, this sentence can mean two things.

    このプリン食べたら、帰ります。

    It can either mean "I'll go back home after eating this pudding," or "I'll go back home if you eat this pudding." To avoid miscommunication, もし(も) is often used to indicate that the sentence is meant to be conditional.

    • もし(も)このプリン食べたら帰ります。
    • ❌ I'll go back home when I finish eating this pudding.
      ⭕️ I'll go back home if you eat this pudding.

    〜たら can also be used to describe a counterfactual situation.

    • お金があったら留学するのに。
    • If I had money, I would have studied abroad.
    • 雨じゃなかったら出かけたのに。
    • If it had not been rainy outside, I would have gone out.

    In this case, のに is often used at the end of the sentence to emphasize the feeling of regretting the described event or situation.

    たら for Reference and Suggestion

    You can also use 〜たら to simply refer to someone or something. In this case, you are providing a condition for your next statement, which creates the nuance you are referring to something or someone among many others.

    • コウイチだったら、外にいますよ。
    • (If it's Koichi who you are looking for), he is outside.

    You can use these conjugation patterns by themselves as in the following example. When using 〜たら in this way, your speech is interpreted as a suggestion.

    • Koichi: お腹空いた。
      Kanae: このプリン食べたら?
    • Koichi: I'm hungry.
      Kanae: How about eating this pudding?

    In this conversation, Kanae is giving Koichi a condition which might solve his problem. Don't forget to add rising intonation to your voice at the end of the sentence to indicate a question. Otherwise, people will think you plan to continue the sentence.