Using い-Adjective Conditional Form (〜ければ) for "If..."

    • Adjective
    All い-adjectives in the conditional form end in 〜ければ. This is the form we use in situations where we would use "if" or "when" in English.

    Table of Contents

    ければ for the Conditional

    〜ければ is the conditional form of Japanese い-adjectives. All い-adjectives that have been converted into this form end in 〜ければ, and you can read about how to change an adjective into this form here. We use this form in the same sort of situations as we would use "if" or "when" in English.

    Different phrases using 〜ければ can be used as equivalents for all of the different types of conditionals in English. By this we mean that い-adjectives ending in 〜ければ can be translated as "when it is…", "if it is," "if it were," and even "if it had been," depending on the sentence.

    The い-adjective that is in the ければ form is always the condition, and whatever comes after the 〜ければ is the result of that condition. Let's look at an example:

    • おいしければ、売れるでしょう。
    • If it's delicious, it will sell well.

    In the sentence above, being delicious (おいしければ) is the condition and selling well (売れる) is the result.

    〜ければ is used in a very similar way to 〜たら, which is also more or less the equivalent of "if…" in English. The most obvious difference between the two is that 〜たら is more common in speaking, whereas 〜ければ is more common in writing. 〜ければ is still used a lot in speaking too, but generally has a less casual tone. There are some other subtle differences between the two, so we'll mention some of them as we look at all the different ways we can use 〜ければ.

    〜ければ also overlaps quite a bit with 〜と (Strong Causal Relationship). The use of 〜と, though, is limited to when a result is inevitable, so it's much closer to the English "when." 〜ければ, on the other hand, covers both "when" and "if" in English.

    As we will see in this post, 〜ければ covers all kinds of situations, depending on the context and which words we combine it with. Let's take a more detailed look at how this handy form can be used.

    ければ for General Truths

    We can use 〜ければ in situations when we are pointing out something that definitely happens under a certain condition. In English, we'd generally use "when" in this situation. In Japanese, both と and 〜たら can also be used. Basically, we are saying that "when this thing is true, this other thing will definitely happen." For this reason, the sentence is never used in the past form—since universal truths are true all the time.

    Fun fact: for fans of English grammar, this use is the equivalent of the English "zero conditional."

    In this use, we are talking about general facts, or things that are believed to be facts by the person speaking. So 〜ければ is commonly used in proverbs, which makes sense when we consider that proverbs generally express things that are taken to be universally true:

    • 終わりよければ全て良し。
    • All's well that ends well.

    ければ for Habits

    〜ければ can also be used to talk about repeated actions that happen—or happened—under a certain condition.

    • 天気がよければよく外を走ります。
    • I go for a run outside every day, if the weather's nice.

    In this example, the condition is nice weather. Whenever this condition arises, the habit is inevitable (I go jogging).

    This also works in the past, so we can use this form to talk about past habits in exactly the same way. Let's look at the jogging example again, but imagine that you don't go jogging anymore:

    • 子供のころは、天気がよければよく外を走りました。
    • When I was a child I used to go for a run outside every day, if the weather was nice.

    Notice that here we have to change both parts of the sentence in English, whereas in Japanese it's only the second part of the sentence that changes.

    In more old-fashioned—and written—Japanese, it's common to add ものだ to the end of the second part of the sentence:

    • 天気がよければよく外を走ったものだ。
    • I used to go jogging every day, if the weather was nice.

    This use of ものだ emphasizes the fact that we are recalling the "old days."

    ければ for Future Uncertainty

    So far, we've seen how 〜ければ can be used to talk about things that are definitely true in the present and the past. But what if we want to talk about things we're not sure about? In Japanese, we can still use this form, and we add words like もし, だろう, でしょう, に違いない, はずだ, and かもしれない to make it clear that we are not 100% sure that the condition will happen in the first place. Depending on the words that are added, we may not be sure of the result either. For English grammar fans, this use is the equivalent of the English first conditional.

    • 天気が悪ければ、遠足は中止になる。
    • If the weather's bad, the excursion will be cancelled.
    • もし天気が悪ければ、遠足は中止になるかもしれない
    • If the weather's bad, the excursion will probably be cancelled.

    In this example, the condition is in the future, but it's also possible to use this for present conditions:

    • こんなに質が良ければ、きっとたくさん売れると思う。
    • If it's such good quality, it'll sell well.

    In this case, we're talking about a present condition, but we are not 100% sure that the condition is really true. In other words, we think there's a chance it's not such good quality, but if it is good quality, we're sure the result will be good sales.

    ければ for Intentions and Wishes

    To talk about something we intend to do, we can also use this form, this time adding つもり on the end of the second part:

    • 質が良ければ、買うつもりです。
    • If it's good quality, I plan to buy it.

    This also works with the Japanese equivalent of "let's":

    • 質が良ければ、買いましょう。
    • If it's good quality, let's buy it.

    Other Forms of い-Adjectives

    Check out the chart below to see how 〜ければ fits into the い-adjective paradigm. Click on other conjugations or forms to learn more about them!

    Form 日本語 English
    Stem Form
    く Form strongly
    て Form くて strong, (and)
    Present Tense Form is-strong
    Past Tense Form かった was-strong
    Negative Form くない is-not-strong
    Past Negative Form くなかった was-not-strong
    Conditional Form ければ if strong...
    Measurable Noun Form strength
    Subjective Noun Form strong point