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Intermediate Japanese Language Learning with Dazai Osamu

Complimentary Japanese Reading Lessons From Maplopo Schoolhouse

Season ONE—水仙 (Page twenty eight)


EP.28 Spotlight: 〜ならば〜かもしれぬ, Dazai Osamu (太宰治), Daffodil (水仙)

Video file / Audio File / Online Intermediate Japanese Course

〜ならば〜かもしれぬ, EP28 transcript | Intermediate and Advanced Japanese

[Quiet Piano Jazz Music Playing]

Today we’re going to take a look at conditionals.

Conditionals are basically an “if clause” followed by a, uh, main clause, or, a “result clause.”

Uh, one of the cool things about conditionals in Japanese, is you’ll notice that the, uh, the format is essentially the same. So, “if” and “then.” Basically, right? So, the uh… the structure of the sentence doesn’t really change. But, Dazai being Dazai (and this being writing), there’s some style, uh, at play here, so… we’re going to, uh, hear a little bit more about that in just a second. Let’s listen to Dazai’s use of these two clauses.

And the first clause is:

(Japanese Speaking)

…and the second…

(Japanese Speaking)


So, let’s dive into the lesson and check out Dazai’s sentence.

(Japanese Speaking—1st Reading)

(Japanese Speaking—2nd Reading)

“If the lord had had unswerving, steadfast, confidence in his skill, nothing unusual might have happened, and everything may have been peaceful.”

Let’s take a look at two examples. We’ll do two different reads for you. The first read will be, uh, Dazai’s style:

(Japanese Speaking—1st Reading)

(Japanese Speaking—2nd Reading)

“If I had run at full speed, I might have caught the 11:07 train.”

(Japanese Speaking—1st Reading)

(Japanese Speaking—2nd Reading)

“If I hadn’t been extremely shy, I might have been more of a conversationalist with Mr. Heisig. Now, let’s hear a slightly different read of this—a more common usage.

(Japanese Speaking—1st Reading)

(Japanese Speaking—2nd Reading)

Okay, and… of course, my translations… (or, my reads) would be exactly the same. Uh, one thing worth noticing is… because I’m speaking these… I’m using contractions, right? So, if they were written, I might not do that. But, easier to get out of my mouth to contract them. So, you may have noticed that in that first clause that なら clause… uh, the ば was dropped, right? And in the second clause, we replace ぬ with ない. Let’s take a closer look at what’s happening inside these two clauses.

So, in this first clause (which we call the なら clause), it’s basically an “if clause,” right? And, um, what happens there…? Well, to be super grammar nerdy, you’re talking about something that “conveys conditionality.” Right? You’re making a hypothesis in this “if clause.” If you operate in a world of computers, this would make sense to you, right?


So, if this happens… then, something else might happen. So, and that’s what I was talking about when I was mentioning the structure being similar before, right? “If” and “then” as blocks… (as clauses), follow that same kind of pattern as they do in English.

In English, the word “if” which conveys this idea of conditionality, appears at the very beginning of the first clause, right? But in Japanese, the idea that conveys conditionality (which is なら), appears at the end of the clause. And it’s preceded by a verb. Which is a very, very, important indicator that we’ll talk about right now. The verb is an important indicator because it tells us when things are happening, right? And with conditionals you can have a present conditional, uh:

“If this happens, I might go now.”


You can have a future conditional, uh:

“If this happens… I might be rich.”


Uh, or you can have a past conditional, which is what we’re dealing with in this sentence.


“If I were to have run at full speed…” we talked about in our examples… “then, maybe I would have made the train.” Right?

“If I hadn’t been so shy, I would have talked to the, uh, writer of Mastering the Kanji…

“Remembering the Kanji…”

I can’t remember. I still can’t come up with the title… anyway… you get the idea, right?

Past tense.

“If that thing had happened then maybe this thing wouldn’t have happened.”

Or, “Would have happened.”

[Clearing Palate]

And so, in Dazai’s sentence he’s using past tense, right? So, you have… this… verb… which is:  持っている. And, it’s conjugated to 持っていた, right? That tells us we’re gonna be dealing with past tense. And when you hit なら immediately after
that, then you know, oh (!), past tense. And, conditional.

In the second clause, we’re dealing with the, uh, result of what we talked about in the first clause, right? So, what happens in the second clause is entirely contingent on what happens in the first clause. But, this statement that we’re dealing with here is all about “might.” Or, “may.” Some sort of possibility of something having happened, once this first thing happened. If IT happened. [Laughs] And, so earlier, I talked about this idea of, uh, things being unreal—

(that’s the word that we use when we talk about this, when we talk about this, third conditional from a grammar standpoint).

Because it’s really just not realistic that these things would have happened, right? So, if we take a tiny little step back again and look at our examples… (in) this, uh, first example, we have:

“If I had run at full speed, I might have caught the train,” right?

Well, it’s unreal because you didn’t run at full speed, and you were not going to catch the train, and, because you didn’t run at full speed you didn’t catch the train, right?

Okay, let’s zip back to Dazai’s second clause here and—just like in the first clause—the verb plays an important role. So here, the verb you have is… is ある. And, it’s conjugated to past tense, right? And, because it’s conjugated to past tense (and is followed by our auxiliary verb), then, we know that this clause is unreal. Which means it did not happen.

This compound auxiliary 〜かましれぬ is… you might remember… also one of these “guessing,” or, “supposing” auxiliaries, right? And when you use it, you’re aware that the thing that you’re discussing or describing could go either way (as far as possibility goes on the spectrum of possibility). It’s way down at the bottom when you use it. Not very likely to happen. Um, but beyond that, this is also not an objective statement.

It’s really subjective, right? So, it describes… more how you feel about the possibility, rather than the possibility itself. It’s really about how you feel.

Today, we focused on this past conditional, and we saw Dazai’s use of なら. But there are two other ways that you can say it or write it. Uh, ば… (which is the most common way to say it these days), or, たら.

Now, let’s listen to Dazai’s sentence using these two additional ways. And, pay special attention to the conjugation of that verb just before this usage, okay? That’s where you really want to be looking and listening. At the tail end of the phrase, here, we’ll also use ない to keep things めっちゃ common for ya.

Okay, let’s listen.

(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)

(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)

Let’s use this ば structure and たら structure, again, in our two examples.

(Speaking Japanese)

(Speaking Japanese)

(Speaking Japanese)

(Speaking Japanese)

So, there you have it.

Not easy, right?

This is one of the more complicated structures to explain, actually, when you’re teaching English, uh, to people, and that’s equally difficult to explain in Japanese. Uh, but, it’s a cool and useful phrase, and apparently Dazai uses this often. He’s not so sure about a lot of things in his writing.

So, now that you know it… now that you understand what it’s all about… uh, think about it when you run into it in some of his other writing! Okay, on to the next one.

[Quiet Piano Jazz Music Playing]

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