Grammar Info
N4 Lesson 3: 15/18

If, If it's the case, As for (conditional)

なら replaces だ when used with nouns or な-adjectives

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使用域 一般
As mentioned in our lesson about , なら is often used by itself to mean ‘if’. This is considered to be an abbreviation of ならば, the 仮定(かてい) (hypothesis) form of なり, a classical auxiliary verb that is not used much in modern Japanese.
Because なり originally meant ‘to be’, it functions in a similar way to the 助動詞(じょどうし) (auxiliary verb) . This means that it regularly pairs with nouns, or phrases that have been nominalized (become noun-like), though the use of .
  • 田舎(いなか)住(す)むのならば、車(くるま)買(か)ったほうがいい
    If you are going to live in the countryside, it would be better to buy a car.
  • 寒(さむ)のならば、ジャケット着(き)といいだろう
    If it is cold, you should wear a jacket.
  • 無理(むり)ならいい
    If it is not possible, it's okay.
  • デザートなら何(なん)でも食(た)べられます
    If it is a dessert, I can eat anything. (If it is dessert, I like anything)
However, unlike (or です), なら is also regularly used without the extra help of for nominalization, and can be attached directly to verbs or い-Adjectives.
  • 私(わたし)車(くるま)使(つか) なら、いつ使(つか)う教(おし)えてください
    If you are going to use my car, please let me know when.
  • 暑(あつ)ならその上着(うわぎ)脱(ぬ)いでください
    If you are hot, please take off that jacket.
Because なら is an abbreviation of ならば, it is strictly used when making guesses about what ‘may’, or what ‘could’ happen in certain situations. This means that it will not be used as ‘if’ in statements about results that are produced through some sort of effort/training.
  • 練習(れんしゅう)するなら、漢字(かんじ)書(か)のが上手(じょうず)になる
    If you are going to practice, you will get good at writing kanji. (Unnatural Japanese, as becoming ‘good’ is a natural result of practicing)
Fun Fact
Although なら comes from the classical auxiliary verb なり, it should not be confused with the particle なり, which often has the meaning of ‘as soon as’, or ‘just after’. Thankfully, the particle なり is also quite uncommon in modern Japanese.
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Genki II 2nd Edition
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みんなの日本語 II
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[DBJG] A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar
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Tae Kim's Japanese Grammar Guide
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