I came across a sentence in my textbook:

If the sun were to rise in the west, I would never tell a lie.
And I also found a Japanese webpage that says
  • Even if the sun were to rise in the west, I love you.
  • If the sun were to rise in the west, I will not/never change my mind.
In the above two sentences, it is inappropriate to use I would instead of I will
So then, the first sentence in my textbook also has to be rewritten into I never tell a lie.
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    Maybe those are expressions from Japanese that are not well-translated into English. They seem to be equating the unlikelihood of one's telling a lie to the unlikelihood of the earth's rotation being reversed. If they are bad translations, there's not much basis for a question about English. Dec 22, 2021 at 5:42
  • @JackO'Flaherty Then what do you say when one's telling a lie is unlikelier than the earth's rotation being reversed. For instance how do you say in a modern language this quote from Shakespeare <quote>Doubt thou the stars are fire; Doubt that the sun doth move; Doubt truth to be a liar; But never doubt I love.</quote>
    – Taro
    Dec 22, 2021 at 6:33
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    It's the other way round. The sentences from the website should be rewritten to correspond with the textbook example. Dec 22, 2021 at 8:46
  • 2
    I've now looked at a Google translation, and I don't agree with the author. If requires the conditional - Even if the sun were to rise in the west, I would still love you/I wouldn't change my mind. Dec 22, 2021 at 10:02
  • 1
    @Taro There are only a few archaisms in the Shakespeare, so, "Doubt that the stars are fire, doubt that the sun moves, doubt Truth itself, but don't doubt that I love.". That's modern. Dec 22, 2021 at 13:38

1 Answer 1


Are you asking about conversational language or poetic language? There are English idioms that express when something is unconditional, or unlikely. But there's no English expression equivalent to "if the Sun were to rise in the West..." I'm going to trust the comments that this is a word-for-word translation of a Japanese idiom.

The way you translate idioms/poetry depends on what you want to achieve. If you just want a translation that sounds natural in a normal conversation, then avoid the expression entirely. You could replace it with an English idiom (only use idioms you're familiar with). Or in a lot of cases it's sufficient to say "I love you unconditionally," or "I would never tell a lie."

If you're writing a prose translation (borrowing a term from poetry), then the goal would be to translate the original Japanese as accurately and literally as possible. In those cases you would translate it as "if the Sun were to rise in the West..." Prose translations are normally made to help people understand the original Japanese text. You could translate everything like this, but it relies a bit on your audience already having a cultural understanding of Japanese. I'm not sure about the answer to your would/will question, because the Sun rising in the West is already such an unfamiliar metaphor.

However, if you're translating into poetic language, then you have more freedom to decide what features of the Japanese expression you're trying to translate into English. You could keep the comparison about the Earth's rotation, or you could use an English expression that feels similar, or reword the expression to sound more natural, understandable etc. You have to decide what's most important. No matter how you translate it, you're going to lose some of the original meaning. Some example poetic translations that try to keep the metaphor:

The Sun will rise in the West before I'll tell a lie.

The Sun may rise in the West; I will never tell a lie.

Even if the Sun rose in the West, I would still love you.

You asked about Shakespeare. Shakespeare quotes are instantly recognizable as poetic language, not conversational speech. There have been poetic translations of his work which update it to modern English. Although the most popular format of Shakespeare's work tends to be the original.

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