Learners of Japanese are often taught that you can drop the topic or subject of a sentence if it is obvious from context. This is of course true. What is not often explicitly mentioned is that many other parts of sentences can also be dropped if they are obvious from context. This can include objects, adjectives, and verbs alike.

In this article, I’ll be going over how Japanese speakers omit the second half of a 〜ば conditional when expressing their desires.

For example, let’s take a look at the following sentence:

これを見ていただければいいと思います

This (overly literally) translates to “I think it would be good if I could humbly receive the favor of you looking at this”. It is essentially a very indirect and respectful way to ask your interlocutor to take a look at something for you.

The sentence as it stands is grammatically correct, but to the Japanese ear it’s a bit redundant. Particularly, since this is a request, the fact that “it would be good” if you could receive the favor is obvious from context. You wouldn’t be asking in the first place if you didn’t perceive the desired outcome as being good. And so, that part of the sentence, いい, is dropped altogether:

これを見ていただければと思います。

This construct, いただければと思います, literally means “I think […] if I could receive the favor” where […] could be anything from “it would be good” to “I’d be glad” to “I’d be honored”. Whatever it may be, it doesn’t need to be stated outright, since the speakers intentions are obvious, and so we’re left with what appears to a native English speaker as a rather awkwardly incomplete sentence fragment but to Japanese speakers sounds much more natural.

This pattern of omitting the second half of a 〜ば conditional is not limited to the verb いただく. You can see it also with the standard receiving verb もらう:

それに対して意見を言ってもらえばと思う (I think […] if I could receive the favor of (you) stating (your) opinion regarding that).

and with pretty much any other verb where the desires of the speaker, should the conditional come true, are obvious. For example, take the following sentence:

だれかいい人と出会えればと思って、パーティ一に行った.

Literally this translates to “I went to the party thinking that [….] if I could meet someone nice. What goes into that […]? It’s obvious that the speaker would consider such an encounter with “somebody nice” to be a favorable thing, something they are looking forward to doing. Explicitly stating that […] with an いいな or うれしいな might not fully convey the exact feelings the speaker has, and so, it is left out and left to the listener to intuit how the speaker feels.

With this really simple stylistic change to your speech, you can really impress your Japanese friends, acquaintances and colleagues by speaking in a much more authentically Japanese way.

頑張りましょう!

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