Conditional statements in Japanese. (1)

You can say conditional statements by using conjunctive particles, such as:

(1) 氷をあたためる  溶けます。
If you heat ice, it melts.

(2) 暑い なら 窓を開けてください。
If it is hot, please open the window.

Red words in the above examples are conjunctive particles. They connect the conditional phrase and the consequent phrase, such as:

The problem is that Japanese has several different CPs of different meanings, so making use of them properly is difficult for non-native speakers.
Have you ever heard clear explanation about that?

6 CS types

At first, you should know the difference of 6 CS types, such as:

Direction (D), 指示
暑い なら 窓を開けてください。
 If it is hot, please open the window.
Prediction (P), 予想
駅まで歩く なら 10分ぐらいかかるでしょう。
If you walk to the station, it will take around 10 minutes.
Judgement (J), 判断
地面が濡れていた なら 雨が降ったのでしょう。
If the ground was wet, it must had rained.
Will (W), 意志
誰もいない なら 私がやります。
If nobody is there, I’ll do it.
Result (R), 結果
窓を開け たら 富士山が見えた。
When I opened the window, I saw Mt. Fuji.
Action (A), 行動
8時になった ので 店を開けました。
It became 8 oclock, so I opened the shop.

As you see abouve, there are 6 CS types: D,P,J,W,R,A, right?

ば and と 

The CP “ば” can be used for the CSs of D, P, J and W.
The CP “と” can be used for the CSs of P and R.

Examples are follows.
  駅まで歩け  10分ぐらいかかるでしょう。 correct
  駅まで歩く  10分ぐらいかかるでしょう。 correct
  If you walk to the station, it will take around 10 minutes.
↑ Because the CS is a prediction(P), both と/ば are usable.
  暑けれ  窓を開けてください。 correct
  暑い  窓を開けてください。 incorrect
  If it is hot, please open the window.
↑ Because the CS is a direction(D), と is not usable here.
  窓を開けれ  富士山が見えた。 incorrect
  窓を開ける  富士山が見えた。 correct
  When I opened the window, I saw Mt. Fuji.
↑Because the CS is a result(R) of an action, ば is not usable here.
  もし窓を開けれ  富士山が見えただろう。 correct
  もし窓を開ける  富士山が見えただろう。 correct
  If I had opened the window, I would have seen Mt. Fuji.
↑Because the CS is a prediction(P) of an action, both と/ば is usable here.


手 in various words

A man has two hands.
He controls his hands for doing a job.
The hands are expected to move harmoniously, in accordance with his intention.

A person who has some intention and skill controls his hands for performing moves/actions/activities needed to accomplish an objective.

This is the basic structure behind the words which involve the letter “手(て, しゅ)”.

Let’s abstract the structure as the figure below.
A director commands his subordinates, the subordinates execute the actions that function to get the objective done. “Subordinates” can be not only people but also things. This abstraction helps you understand the various usages related to “手”.

The figure below shows some examples of “手” related words.

“~者”, “~員”, “~手”,“~師”, “~士”

The structure related to “~者”, “~員”, “~手”

An organization has an objective. It gives its members roles. Each member has his/her own role, different from others. In accordance with the roles, they perform their tasks (activities). When the activities work as designed in a coordinated manner, the objective will have been accomplished.

In this perspective, you can understand some Japanese terminology system of calling people related to the roles/jobs/positions etc, like “~者”, “~員”, “~手”.

For example:
事務員(じむいん) office clerk
従業員(じゅうぎょういん) employee
乗組員(のりくみいん) crew (of a ship/plane/train , etc)
研究員(けんきゅういん) research worker

“~員” means a person who belongs to the organization.
It focuses on the relationship between the member and the organization.

For example:
研究者(けんきゅうしゃ) scholar, scientist
医者(いしゃ) doctor (medical)
運転者(うんてんしゃ) driver (of a car)
責任者(せきにんしゃ) person in charge

“~者” means a person who does the activity necessary to accomplish the objective.

This principle can be also applied when there is no organization or objective, such as:

歩行者(ほこうしゃ) walker, pedestrian
開発者(かいはつしゃ) developer
作者(さくしゃ) author
信者(しんじゃ) person who believes in something

People do their activity without any organization or objective.
For example, a man can walk by himself, doesn’t need to belong to an organization to do it or has no specific objective. That’s why “歩行者” is correct but “歩行員” is not correct.

When the activity requires some professional skills, the usages “~師” or “~士” are often used.

教師(きょうし) professional teacher
看護師(かんごし) nurse
通信士(つうしんし) radio officer
弁護士(べんごし) lawyer
技師(ぎし) engineer

Then, “~者” usage doesn’t mean that the person has the professional skills.

看護師(かんごし) nursing professional (having a qualification)
看護者(かんごしゃ) a person who looks after a patient (qualification is not required)

弁護士(べんごし) professional lawyer
弁護者(べんごしゃ) person who defends the accused

For example:
投手(とうしゅ) pitcher (baseball)
捕手(ほしゅ) catcher (baseball)
砲手(ほうしゅ), 射手(しゃしゅ) gunner (military)
騎手(きしゅ) jockey (horse race)

Sometimes “~手(しゅ)” is used for describing a person who belongs to an organization, having a role, expected to do an activity specific to the objective.
This is somewhat alike to “~員”, but “~手” usage is less common than “~員”.

続いて and 通じて

“This road leads to Kyoto. “
In Japanese you can say that:


Both sentences mean almost the same, but strictly speaking, there is a little difference. What’s that?

Both sentences represent a scene like below.
Please imagine there are two places and a road between them. Place 1 is the start point, place 2 is the goal.

The difference is,
“通じて” focuses on the goal, but
“続いて” focuses on the continuation from the start point.

Imagine a road goes like the figure below.
It goes to the south at the beginning, then turn to the east and leads to the place 2. All the passengers taking the road will go to the place 2. There’s no specific area worth to go in the south.

In such a case, you can say as below.

S1) この道は place 1 から南(the south)へ続いています。
S2) この道は place 1 から place 2 へ続いています。

S3) この道は place 1 から place 2 へ通じています。

All the above examples are natural.
However, the sentence below sounds a little unnatural.

S4) この道は place 1 から南(the south)へ通じています。

“通じて” is basically used with a goal point. “南(the south)” is not the goal for the passengers. That’s why S4 sounds unnatural.

について and に対して

Question: What is the difference between “について” and “に対して(にたいして)”? The examples are below.

Answer: Please imagine that you explain something to someone.
The situation can be compared to sending a package to a destination, like a figure below.

Then, “について” indicates the term before it is the contents, “に対して” indicates the destination.

帰る and 戻る

帰る(かえる) and 戻る(もどる) have similar meanings but are a little different.

Say, there are two places, place-1 and 2. An object is in place-1, moves to place-2, stay there for some duration, then moves back to place-1.

帰る(かえる)/戻る(もどる) both mean “move back”. The fundamental meanings are the same. However, in detail there are some differences.

戻る(もどる) implies that the duration of staying is relatively short.
戻る(もどる) can be used when the place-1 is just a temporal zone.
帰る(かえる) implies that place-1 is the home ground of the object.
戻る(もどる) can be used about value of something, not about physical moving.

■Temporal zone
For example, when you drove a car, you found a store. You stopped, got off and walked into the store. Then you noticed having no wallet, you left it in the car. So you had to move back to the car to take it. In this context, 戻る(もどる) is suitable, 帰る(かえる) sounds a little unnatural.


Because a car is not a permanent place, it is just a temporal zone.

If this story is about your house, instead of a car, then your house is a permanent place, so you can use both 帰る(かえる)/戻る(もどる).

■Value of something
In the following examples, “normal value” is not a physical place. It is a numerical value which indicates health status. Using 帰る(かえる) for that sounds unnatural. 戻る(もどる) is suitable.

脈拍が正常値に戻り(もどり)ました。 (correct)
脈拍が正常値に帰り(かえり)ました。 (unnatural)
The heart rate of the patient returned to normal value.

に and で

The difference between に and で of the following  examples seems confusing.

東京 住む。 I live in Tokyo.
東京 観光する。 I do sightseeing in Tokyo.

At first, you should distinguish “place of activity(PA)” and “place of target(PT)”.

Imagine that you are in Osaka, and send a package to Tokyo. In this case, there are two places, Osaka and Tokyo. Osaka is the place of the activity, Tokyo is the activity’s target.

The fundamental rule is:

   “で” marks PA
   “に” marks PT

For example,

大阪 東京 電話をかける。

You are in Osaka, call up somebody in Tokyo.

Some verbs take no PT.

   東京 観光する。 I do sightseeing in Tokyo.

In this case, Tokyo is the place of the activity “観光”, so is used for marking 東京 as a PA.

However, it seems like the same in “東京住む”, but the correct particle for 住む is not “”, but “”.
It should be confusing. Why?

This is an exception of the rule “で marks PA”.


You have to distinguish “state verbs” and “action verbs”.

住む is a state verb. Usually it will not end in near future.
観光する is an action verb. Usually it will end in near future.

State verbs take に for marking the place(PA), instead of で. This exception can also be applied in other state verbs like いる, ある.

東京タワーは東京 ある。 Tokyo Tower is in Tokyo.
彼は大阪 います。He is in Osaka.
私は京都 住んでいます。 I live in Kyoto.

There is one more exception, but the principle is the same.
Why the particle of the following sentence is で?

花火大会が東京 ある。 A fireworks festival is going to be held in Tokyo.

Because 花火大会(a fireworks festival) is a temporal event. It will end within several hours. Then, the verb ある in this context don’t mean “state”, it is an action verb. That’s why で is correct.


About the conjunctions in the sentences below, what is the difference between them?


また & さらに

When you evaluate an object, there could be several different aspects or viewpoints.

また implies that you are mentioning in another viewpoints.


「場所をとるか?」 and 「持ち運びしやすいか?」 are different viewpoints. (Logically, they have some correlation, but not totally the same)

さらに implies that you are adding information in the same viewpoints.


This sentence says what he ate, that’s all. No other viewpoint is there.

However, this difference is not strict. Actually, it sounds not so strange even if you interchanged また and さらに in the sentence 1 and 2.

しかも & そのうえ

しかも and そのうえ mean similar, so they often are interchangeable.


そのうえ and しかも in the above sentences are interchangeable.

However, they have somewhat different implication in some cases.
The logical structure of そのうえ can be illustrated as below.

You do 勉強 and アルバイト, so you are very busy every day.
In this case, 勉強 and アルバイト have the same meaning “takes time” to the conclusion “忙しい”. そのうえ implies the two explicit activities (or attributes) have the same implicit meaning to the conclusion.

In this perspective, さらに have similar meaning because both of them are about “time consuming” issues, so そのうえ in the sentence 3 can be replaced with さらに.
When you have some conclusion you want to say, そのうえ is more suitable.

Then, what about しかも ?


The logical structure of しかも can be illustrated as below.

しかも implies that the two or more attributes mentioned are difficult to be compatible. “Quickness” and “Accuracy” are often incompatible, so who can do both at the same time are reliable.

However, the basic logical structure of しかも and そのうえ are the same, so in many cases you can use them interchangeably.


Then, what about それも ?


Information of a sentence can be disassembled as the core and the complements, like as follows:

それも implies that the information is the complements.

Compare to the example below:


“食事を食べられなかった” is not a complement to “作文を書き直させられた”. It is another core, so you can’t use それも there, そのうえ is suitable in this case.


What is the difference between ように and ために?
Example sentences are as below.

Depending on the form of the preceding verb 見える/見る, you should distinguish between ように/ために properly.
The following figure illustrates the difference.

ように describes the change of the state of the target object(“the stars”). ために modifies the meaning of the verb “watch”.

見る is a volitional verb, 見える is a non-volitional verb.

ために is used together with volitional verbs,
ように is used with non-volitional verbs.

The following sentence describes “私” watch stars by his/her intention.

見る is a volitional verb, so you have to specify the subject “私” as the person having the volition. ために is used with this kind of verbs.

The following describes the state of the stars, it doesn’t mean anybody’s intention.

見える is non-volitional, so you don’t have to specify the person who watches the stars. ように is used with this kind of verbs.


Q: What is the difference between さしかかる and 通る ?

A man walks along a road. A landmark is on the road.
As time passes, he moves from left to right, (1),(2),(3).

歩くうちに彼はその建物にさしかかった。(mean position (2))
彼はその建物を通り過ぎた。 (mean position(3))
彼はその道を通った。( all through the way from (1) to (3) and the rest. )

道路に対して go across する場合は「横切る(よこぎる)/渡る(わたる)」の両方を使えます。