Kono tare sae areba, anata wa ryōri meijin desu. (If you only have this dipping sauce, you’ll be an expert cook.)

Situation 1: At Yuri’s apartment, she cooks for her boyfriend Mr. Sere.

セレ: うわー、これ、おいしいよ! ゆりは、本当に料理が上手だね。

ゆり: 実は、このタレを使っているの。「このタレさえあれば、あなたは料理名人です」って、テレビで宣伝しているのよ。

Sere: Uwā, kore, oishii yo! Yuri wa, hontō ni ryōri ga jōzu da ne.

Yuri: Jitsu wa, kono tare o tsukatte-iru no. “Kono tare sae areba, anata wa ryōri meijin desu”-tte, terebi de senden shite-iru no yo.

Sere: Wow, this is delicious! Yuri, you’re really good at cooking.

Yuri: Actually, I’m using this sauce. The advertisement on TV said, “If you only have this dipping sauce, you’ll be an expert cook.”

The pattern XさえY、Z — in which “X” is a noun, “Y” is a verb in its conditional “-eba” form and “Z” is a phrase that indicates the result of the first part of the structure — is used to express the idea of “if … only” or “as long as.” In Situation 1, Yuri quotes a TV commercial that proclaims anyone can be a great cook as long as they have a special タレ dipping sauce. Other examples include:

疲(つか)れた。お金(かね)さえあればタクシーで帰(かえ)れるのに。 (I’m tired. If only I had money, I would take a taxi home.)

彼(かれ)さえ来(く)ればわかります。 (If only he came, then we’d understand.)

私(わたし)さえがまんすればいいんです。 (As long as I persevere, things will be all right.)

Situation 2: Two colleagues are chatting at the office.

三田: 休みを取って、旅行にでも行きたいなあ。

グレイ: このプロジェクトが終わりさえすれば、たくさん休みが取れるよ。がんばろう!

Mita : Yasumi o totte, ryokō ni demo ikitai nā.

Gurei: Kono purojekuto ga owari sae sureba, takusan yasumi ga toreru yo. Ganbarō!

Mita: I want to take time off and go on a trip.

Gray: If we could just finish this project, we could take a lot of time off. Let’s do our best!

To emphasize the verb when using さえ, use its masu-form and replace ます with さえ. Then attach すれば to it, as in Situation 2’s 終(お)わりさえすれば (if only we could finish).

You can also use さえ with the te-iru form of a verb, as in 生(い)きてさえいれば、きっといいことがあります。 (Only if you keep alive, something good will be sure to happen.) In this construction, however, make sure you put the さえ ahead of いる:

まじめに勉強(べんきょう)してさえいれば試験(しけん)は大丈夫(だいじょうぶ)だ。 (As long as you’re studying seriously, you’ll do OK on the exam.)

Bonus Dialogue: When Mrs. Okubo looks into her son’s bedroom, she notices that he is playing video games instead of studying for his exams.

母(はは): 光男(みつお)、またパソコンゲームしているのね。勉強しないと、いい大学(だいがく)に入(はい)れないわよ。

光男: 母(かあ)さんの時代(じだい)の人(ひと)はみんな、いい大学さえ出(で)れば、いい就職(しゅうしょく)ができて幸(しあわ)せになれると考(かんが)えているんでしょ。でも、人間(にんげん)の幸せは、そういうものじゃないよ。

母: そんな哲学者(てつがくしゃ)みたいなことを言(い)っていないで、勉強しなさい。

光男: 人生(じんせい)とか幸せについて、もっと考えるべきだよ。母さんは、ぼくが勉強してさえいれば、幸せなの?

母: もちろんそうよ。光男が母さんを幸せにするのは、とても簡単(かんたん)よ。早(はや)く幸せにしてね。

光男: あ、ゲームが急(きゅう)に大変(たいへん)なことになっている!敵(てき)が強(つよ)くなっちゃった。じゃあ、あと1時間(いちじかん)したら、母さんを幸せにしてあげるから、待(ま)っていてよ。

母: 本当(ほんとう)に1時間後(ご)に私の幸せが来(く)るのかしら?

Mother: Mitsuo, you’re playing video games again. If you don’t study, you won’t be able to get into a good university.

Mitsuo: Mom, everyone from your era thinks that if you just come out of a good university, then you’ll find a good job and gain happiness. However, human happiness is not that kind of thing.

Mother: You should study instead of speaking like some sort of philosopher.

Mitsuo: You should think more about life and happiness. Mom, if I only study, will it bring you joy?

Mother: Yes, of course. See, it’s very easy for you to make your mother happy. Please hurry up and make me happy.

Mitsuo: Ah, oh no, my game has suddenly become difficult! My opponent has become very strong. OK, I’ll bring you your happiness in an hour, so hold on.

Mother: Will happiness really come to me after an hour?

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