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Past conditionals

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Past conditionals

Postby Svensk » Wed 07.22.2009 3:05 pm

Hi!

I have a question about conditonals, that I hope you can answer.

When I want to say that I will check my e-mail when I get home I say "kaettara iーmeiru o yomu", but can I say "kaettara i-meiru o yonda"? At first I thought that I couldn't say that, but my study book, Japanese Sentence Patterns for Effective Communication, told me that I can use the conditional particle to in sentences that express past conditions (example from the book; "Fue o narasu to tori ga tonde itta."When I blew the wistle, the birds flew away"), which kind of confused me. Shouldn't I use the "te-form" to express past conditions (instead of tara, to, nara, and eba), for example; "Fue o narashite, tori ga tonde itta"? Are The te-form and the eba- tara-, nara-, and to-forms equal when talking about past conditionals (can I even use tara, nara, and eba when talking about the past? My book never told me if I could, even though it mentioned the past to-conditional.)

I hope I have made my question clear enough. Please tell me if I am hard to understand! And thank you for your help!
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Re: Past conditionals

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Wed 07.22.2009 3:10 pm

たら, ば, and と can all be used with perfectives, in which case they tend to mean "when" rather than "if". What exactly do you mean by "past conditional"? Can you give a specific example?
Last edited by Yudan Taiteki on Fri 07.24.2009 11:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Past conditionals

Postby astaroth » Wed 07.22.2009 3:28 pm

It confused me as well at first, but Japanese doesn't have consecutio temporum so the dependent sentence doesn't 'live' in a time prior to the principal sentence.

As for your example, I think と connects two sentences when the sentence follows naturally from the the events of the first for example: この道をまっすぐ行くと、市役所があります。
So in your example 笛を鳴らすと、鳥が飛んで行った: the action of blowing the whistle is the direct cause of the birds to fly away. While instead by saying 笛を鳴らして、鳥が飛んで行った: the action of blowing the whistle happens first and may or may not be the cause of the birds to fly away.

I hope everything I said is right. If not please correct me.
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Re: Past conditionals

Postby flammable hippo » Fri 07.24.2009 5:32 pm

Yudan Taiteki wrote:(As a side note, I think your sig is a little inappropriate since politics and religion discussion are not allowed on this forum.)


I don't see anything wrong with the sig "life sucks, then you die." There is nothing inheritely religous or political about that statement. The first is merely an opinion, and the second is a fact.
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Re: Past conditionals

Postby Hyperworm » Fri 07.24.2009 5:38 pm

flammable hippo wrote:
Yudan Taiteki wrote:(As a side note, I think your sig is a little inappropriate since politics and religion discussion are not allowed on this forum.)


I don't see anything wrong with the sig "life sucks, then you die." There is nothing inheritely religous or political about that statement. The first is merely an opinion, and the second is a fact.
That wasn't the sig at the time of Yudan's post.
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Re: Past conditionals

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Fri 07.24.2009 11:40 pm

flammable hippo wrote:I don't see anything wrong with the sig "life sucks, then you die." There is nothing inheritely religous or political about that statement. The first is merely an opinion, and the second is a fact.


I went back and deleted the statement; at the time I posted it the sig was different and more politically charged.
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Re: Past conditionals

Postby Svensk » Sun 07.26.2009 5:55 pm

I am replying a little bit late, sorry if that irritated you.

Yudan Taiteki wrote:たら, ば, and と can all be used with perfectives, in which case they tend to mean "when" rather than "if".


Ok! =)

Yudan Taiteki wrote:たら, ば, and と can all be used with perfectives, in which case they tend to mean "when" rather than "if". What exactly do you mean by "past conditional"? Can you give a specific example?

"When I blew the wistle, the birds flew away" (Fue o narasu to tori ga tonde itta)
Here, blowing the wistle is the condition, the birds flying away are the result, and it all is in the past form.

I have some more thoughts regardig counterfactuals, that I hope you can answer.
Now, my english is not very good, and I can't remember how to use english counterfactuals very well, so I hope that you can understand what i want to say, if not, tell me!

If I want to say something like "If he had met her, he would have been in trouble" (the trouble would have been in the past), and "If he had met her, he would be in trouble" (the trouble is not in the past), in japanese, what should I say? Which grammatical rules would I have to follow to create such sentences?

One more thing, It is late at night here in Sweden, so I did not take much time to read all the answers, that is why I did not reply to all of you.
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Re: Past conditionals

Postby astaroth » Sun 07.26.2009 7:38 pm

Svensk wrote:If I want to say something like "If he had met her, he would have been in trouble" (the trouble would have been in the past), and "If he had met her, he would be in trouble" (the trouble is not in the past), in japanese, what should I say? Which grammatical rules would I have to follow to create such sentences?

As I said in my previous reply there is (almost) no consecutio temporum in Japanese. The time when an action takes place is given by the principal sentence and not by the dependent. By the way as I learned myself in Japanese there is no 'time' for a verb, either an action is ended or is not ended (that I think it's the reason for the absence of a distinction between present and future tenses).
Back on your examples I'd say for the first (by the way it should have been "If he had had met her, he would have been in trouble") → 彼女に会ったら、困りました。困る is in the past tense so the entire sentence is in the past.
And the second 彼女に会ったら、困ります。Here 困る is in the present tense.
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Re: Past conditionals

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Sun 07.26.2009 8:27 pm

"If he had had known" has one too many "had"s in it (the only way you can have two "had" in a row is if the second one is the real verb "has" rather than the auxiliary; i.e. "if he had had a car" or "if he had had someone to talk to".
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Re: Past conditionals

Postby astaroth » Sun 07.26.2009 8:37 pm

For some reasons I totally believed the past subjunctive in English was 'had had done' ... my bad. :oops:
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Re: Past conditionals

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Sun 07.26.2009 9:51 pm

Eh, don't worry -- all the conditional and subjunctive forms in English are pretty unstable.

There's a phenomenon called the "plupluperfect" where an extra "have" gets inserted (by native speakers) into these types of phrases (e.g. "If I hadn't have gotten there so early", although it's often contracted to something like "If we'd a done this"). It's primarily a spoken usage, but it's apparently been around since the 15th century at least. I don't think there's been much research on this, but it looks to me like what's going on is that "had" is being used instead of "would", perhaps because both of them are the same when contracted (we would have known -> we'd have known / we had known -> we'd known), and also because "had" is explicitly past tense whereas "would" does not. But who knows.

M-W's dictionary of English usage closes their entry on the plupluperfect with "So we have, on the one hand, a tendency to replace the pluperfect with the simple past and, on the other, a tendency to emphasize the pluperfect with an extra auxiliary or even to create a sort of pluperfect subjunctive. Who said English was plain and simple?"
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Re: Past conditionals

Postby Svensk » Mon 07.27.2009 8:07 am

astaroth wrote:Back on your examples I'd say for the first (by the way it should have been "If he had had met her, he would have been in trouble") → 彼女に会ったら、困りました。困る is in the past tense so the entire sentence is in the past.
And the second 彼女に会ったら、困ります。Here 困る is in the present tense.

Thanks!^_^ But regarding the second sentence, it can be used for future actions to, right? "If he meets her (tomorrow), he will be in trouble" (I'm pretty sure it does, since the first part in the sentence is timeless, and the second is simply nonpast)? Do I always have to rely on context to separate the two (just like I have to rely on context to know what the sentence "Gakko ni ikimasu" means), or is there an alternative way of expressing the sentence?

In any way, thanks for helping a noob like me! The question has been bothering me for some time now. Thanks!
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Re: Past conditionals

Postby astaroth » Mon 07.27.2009 8:30 am

Svensk wrote:"If he meets her (tomorrow), he will be in trouble" (I'm pretty sure it does, since the first part in the sentence is timeless, and the second is simply nonpast)?

About this I don't know ... sorry I'm pretty much a beginner myself. There is also the 〜ば conditional and the 〜なら which I would assume are slightly different from the 〜たら conditional (and the と), but I don't know how since I haven't studied those yet ... :oops:
Svensk wrote:Do I always have to rely on context to separate the two (just like I have to rely on context to know what the sentence "Gakko ni ikimasu" means), or is there an alternative way of expressing the sentence?

I think so, after all Japanese relies on context most of the times. But to make things clearer I'd say one can always add a temporal adverb like あした and so on ...
Svensk wrote:In any way, thanks for helping a noob like me! The question has been bothering me for some time now. Thanks!

No worries. I had the very same question when I studied the 〜て form and how to link sentences. Consecutio temporum is so much in European languages that it's hard to think otherwise.
Yudan Taiteki wrote:Eh, don't worry -- all the conditional and subjunctive forms in English are pretty unstable.

Thanks Chris for the explanation. Indeed I thought I had heard sentences like "If only I had had been more careful ..." and the like ...
I think the English grammar is somewhat unstable (as you say) because it takes from two different roots ... but this is a completely different topic altogether.
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Re: Past conditionals

Postby NocturnalOcean » Mon 07.27.2009 9:27 am

astaroth wrote:
Svensk wrote:
Back on your examples I'd say for the first (by the way it should have been "If he had had met her, he would have been in trouble") → 彼女に会ったら、困りました。困る is in the past tense so the entire sentence is in the past.
And the second 彼女に会ったら、困ります。Here 困る is in the present tense.


This is something called 反事実 in Japanese. When using this construction, you use either ている for nonpast, or ていた for past. Using normal past and nonpast form here will turn it into something that has happened or will be realized.

Example:

時間があれば、その映画を見る (つもりだ). (通常の条件). It will be realized.
時間があれば、その映画を見ている。 This is called 反事実. It's not happening.

For this structure it is also very common with ている in first sentence.

Example:
田中さんが来れば、パーティーは楽しくなる。 (通常の条件)
田中さんが来ていれば、パーティーは楽しくなっている。(現実の反事実)

In a negative sentence, you might see sentence not using ている, so be aware.

田中さんが助けていれば、山さんは死んでいた
田中さんが助けていれば、山さんはしななかった Both these are okay.

田中さんが助けていれば、山さんは死んでいた
田中さんが助けなければ、山さんは死んでいた This is also okay.

This construction is similar to Aなかったので、Bない/なかった.
What is special about this construction is that rather than reason, it conveys feelings such as relief, regret and so on.

I will list some more examples.

あの時お金があったら、あのカメラを買っていた. (Didn't buy, but wish he could have done)
もっと勉強していたら、彼は合格できていた。(But he didn't pass)
墜落したあの飛行機に乗っていたら、彼は死んでいた。(Good thing he didn't ride it)
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Re: Past conditionals

Postby NocturnalOcean » Mon 07.27.2009 9:30 am

astaroth wrote:
Back on your examples I'd say for the first (by the way it should have been "If he had had met her, he would have been in trouble") → 彼女に会ったら、困りました。困る is in the past tense so the entire sentence is in the past.
And the second 彼女に会ったら、困ります。Here 困る is in the present tense.


This is something called 反事実 in Japanese. When using this construction, you use either ている for nonpast, or ていた for past. Using normal past and nonpast form here will turn it into something that has happened or will be realized.

Example:

時間があれば、その映画を見る (つもりだ). (通常の条件). It will be realized.
時間があれば、その映画を見ている。 This is called 反事実. It's not happening.

For this structure it is also very common with ている in first sentence.

Example:
田中さんが来れば、パーティーは楽しくなる。 (通常の条件)
田中さんが来ていれば、パーティーは楽しくなっている。(現実の反事実)

In a negative sentence, you might see sentence not using ている, so be aware.

田中さんが助けていれば、山さんは死んでいた
田中さんが助けていれば、山さんはしななかった Both these are okay.

田中さんが助けていれば、山さんは死んでいた
田中さんが助けなければ、山さんは死んでいた This is also okay.

This construction is similar to Aなかったので、Bない/なかった.
What is special about this construction is that rather than reason, it conveys feelings such as relief, regret and so on.

I will list some more examples.

あの時お金があったら、あのカメラを買っていた. (Didn't buy, but wish he could have done)
もっと勉強していたら、彼は合格できていた。(But he didn't pass)
墜落したあの飛行機に乗っていたら、彼は死んでいた。(Good thing he didn't ride it)
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