How to Use the Conditional Form "~Ba" in Japanese

Sumeba Miyako: Japanese Proverb

There is a Japanese proverb that goes, "Sumeba Miyako"(住めば都. It translates into, "If you live there, it's the capital." "Miyako" means, "the capital city," but it also refers to, "the best place to be." Therefore, "Sumeba Miyako" means that no matter how inconvenient or unpleasant a place might be, once you get used to living there, you will eventually think of it as being the best place for you.

This proverb is based on the idea that human beings can adapt to their surroundings and it is often quoted in speeches and so on. I think this kind of idea is very helpful for travelers or people living in a foreign country. The English equivalent of this proverb would be, "Every bird likes its own nest best."

"Tonari no shibafu wa aoi (隣の芝生は青い)" is a proverb with the opposite meaning. It means, "The neighbor's lawn is green." Regardless of what you have been given, you are never satisfied and continually make comparisons with others. It is completely different to the feeling conveyed in, "Sumeba Miyako." The English equivalent of this proverb would be, "The grass is always greener on the other side."

By the way, the Japanese word "ao" can refer to either blue or green depending on the situation.

Conditional "~ba" Form

The conditional "~ba" form of, "Sumeba Miyako" is a conjunction, which indicates that the preceding clause expresses a condition. Here are some examples.

* Ame ga fureba, sanpo ni ikimasen. 雨が降れば、散歩に行きません。—If it rains, I won't go for a walk.
* Kono kusuri o nomeba, kitto yoku narimasu. この薬を飲めば、きっとよくなります。—If you take this medicine, you will get better for sure.

Let's study how to make the conditional "~ba" form.

  • Group 1, Group 2, and Irregular Verbs: Replace the final "~u" with "~eba." Iku 行く (to go)—ikeba
    Hanasu 話す (to speak)—hanaseba
    Miru 見る (to see)—mireba
    Kiru 着る (to wear)—kireba
    Taberu 食べる (to eat)—tabereba
    Kuru 来る (to come)—kureba
    Suru する (to do)—sureba
  • I-adjective: Replace the final "~i" with "~kereba." Chiisai 小さい (small)—chiisakereba
    Takai 高い (expensive)—takakereba
  • Na- adjective: Replace "da" with "nara(ba)". The "ba" of "naraba" is often deleted. Yuumei da 有名だ (famous)—yuumei nara(ba)
    Shizuka da 静かだ (quiet)—shizuka nara(ba)
  • Be-verb: Replace the verb with "nara(ba)". The "ba" of "naraba" is often deleted. Amerika-jin da アメリカ人だ—amerika-jin nara(ba)
    Gakusei da 学生だ—gakusei nara(ba)

The negative conditional means, "unless."

  •  Anata ga ikanakereba, watashi mo ikimasen. あなたが行かなければ、私も行きません。—If you don't go, I won't go either.

Here are some examples using the conditional "~ba" form.

  • Kono hon o yomeba, wakarimasu. この本を読めば、わかります。—If you read this book, you will understand.
  • Kuukou e wa kuruma de ikeba, nijuppun de tsukimasu. 空港へは車で行けば、二十分でつきます。 —If you go by car, you can get to the airport in 20 minutes.
  • Mou sukoshi yasukereba, kaimasu. もう少し安ければ、買います。 —I will buy it if it is a little bit cheaper.
  • Hayaku okinakereba, gakkou ni okuremasu yo. 早く起きなければ、学校に遅れますよ。 —If you don't get up early, you will be late for school.
  • Okanemochi naraba, ano kuruma mo kaeru deshou. お金持ちならば、あの車も買えるでしょう。 —If you are rich, you will be able to buy that car, too.

Idiomatic Expression: "~ ba yokatta"

There are some idiomatic expressions which use the conditional "~ba" form. The verb + "~ ba yokatta ~ばよかった" means, "I wish I had done so ~". "Yokatta" is the informal past tense of the adjective "yoi (good)." This expression is often used with an exclamatory word such as "aa (oh)" and the sentence-ending particle "naa".

  • Kare to isshoni nihon ni ikeba yokatta. 彼と一緒に日本に行けばよかった。 —I wish I had gone to Japan with him.
  • Sensei ni kikeba yokatta. 先生に聞けばよかった。 —I wish I had asked my teacher.
  • Aa, motto tabereba yokatta naa. ああ、もっと食べればよかったなあ。 —I wish I had eaten more.
  • Denwa shinakereba yokatta. 電話しなければよかった。—I wish I had not called.
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Abe, Namiko. "How to Use the Conditional Form "~Ba" in Japanese." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Abe, Namiko. (2023, April 5). How to Use the Conditional Form "~Ba" in Japanese. Retrieved from Abe, Namiko. "How to Use the Conditional Form "~Ba" in Japanese." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 9, 2023).