If – when – tara

Last week I was introduced to a subtly different use of the tara (たら) verb form.

I already knew it as the way to construct a conditional sentence such as “If I had the money, I would travel around the world” but the second use is to mean “when”.

Sometimes both meanings are possible. For example, maybe I’m looking for a new job at which point I intend to quit my current one.

So in English I could say, “If I find a good job, I’ll quit this one.” This implies that I’m not sure of finding a good one.

But if I’m more confident I might say “When I find a good job, I’ll quit this one.”

No matter, in Japanese both meanings are covered by tara (たら) :

いい仕事が見つかった、今の仕事を辞めます。

ii shigoto ga mitsukatta, ima no shigoto (w)o yamemasu.

And did you notice that, whereas in English we sometimes need to use “would”, in Japanese a simple present (or, strictly speaking, non-past) form is used?

By the way, if you know the “te” (て) form of a verb, you already know “tara”; simply replace te (て) with ta (た) and add ra (ら) . Easy!