Lesson 148

"Some" and "any" in Russian - Russian indefinite pronouns

The audio for the lesson is available at the bottom of the screen under the blue button.

On our way of studying Russian grammar, we’ve already covered personal, demonstrative, possessive, reflexive, emphatic and interrogative pronouns. But the list of Russian pronouns is not finished yet, and today we’ll learn another group of those called “indefinite pronouns”.

The indefinite pronouns are used to refer to indefinite or unknown persons, things, qualities or quanties. They are equivalents of English “any” and “some”.

We can divide Russian indefinite pronouns in 3 groups:

– pronouns ending in –нибу́дь and –ли́бо
– pronouns ending in –то and starting with ко́е
– pronouns не́кто, не́что, не́который, не́сколько, не́кий

Let’s take a look at each of the groups in more details…

Indefinite pronouns ending in -нибу́дь and -ли́бо

Indefinite Russian pronouns ending in -нибу́дь and -ли́бо are used to refer to things and people whose existence is uncertain. Using them the speaker has no definitive object in mind, just a hypotetical one.

Have a look at these examples:

Ты чего́-нибу́дь хо́чешь?
Do you want anything?

Дай мне каку́ю-нибу́дь бума́жку.
Give me some paper.

Хо́чется жить где́-нибудь, где всегда́ тепло́.
I want to live somewhere where it’s always warm.

Кто-нибу́дь приходи́л?
Did anybody come?

Есть ли каки́е-ли́бо но́вости?
Is there any news?

Прикрепи́ э́то ка́к-нибудь.
Attach it somehow.

Не могу́ сообщи́ть чего́-ли́бо утеши́тельного.
I can not say anything comforting.

What’s the difference between -нибу́дь and -ли́бо? While -нибу́дь implies rather a one object in a group, -ли́бо refers to any of them. Compare:

Ты когда́-нибудь ви́дел что-ли́бо подо́бное?
Have you ever (at some point of your life) seen anything like that?

Ты когда́-либо ви́дел что-нибу́дь подо́бное?
Have you ever (at any point of your life) seen a thing like that?

Pronouns ending in -то and starting with ко́е-

These pronouns imply that the referred object is an existing person or thing, but it’s not named. When we use -то, most likely we can’t really name the object as we are not familiar with it. When we use ко́е-, we probably can name the object, just don’t do it for some reason. For example:

Кто-то идёт.
Somebody is coming.
(I know there is somebody, I just don’t know who it is).

Мне что́-то в глаз попа́ло.
I’ve got something in my eye.
(I know there is something, just don’t know what.)

Он сказа́л, что у него́ есть кака́я-то информа́ция.
He said he had some information.
(I know he has some information, but I don’t know what it is.)

Я ко́е-что узна́л.
I got to know something.
(I know what I’ve learned, at this moment I don’t want to tell what exactly.)

Тебе́ ко́е-что передали.
You’ve got something left for you.
(I know what it is, I just don’t name it.)

У меня́ есть кое-кака́я информа́ция.
I have some information.
(I just don’t tell what exactly.)

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Note: when the prefix ко́е- is separated from a pronoun by a preposition, it looses its hyphen:

Я к вам ко́е с каки́м предложе́нием.
I have a proposition for you.

Pronouns не́кто, не́что, не́который, не́сколько, не́кий

The prefix не-, unlike ко́е-, is never separated from the pronoun it’s attached to. This prefix adds the meaning of “unknown” or “unspecified” to the pronoun.

The pronouns “не́кто” and “не́что” are more peculiar to the “bookish” style:

Э́то сде́лал не́кто по и́мени Андре́й.
Someone named Andrey did it.

Им помеша́ло не́что неопределённое.
They were stopped by something unknown.

The rest of the group is widely used:

Не́которые дета́ли мне непоня́тны.
Some details are not clear to me.

Он сде́лал не́сколько оши́бок.
He did a few mistakes.

Тебя́ тут спра́шивает не́кий Макси́м.
Someone called Maxim is asking for you here.

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Pay attention that the prefix не- in these pronouns is always accentuated.

That’s it for this lesson. Practice the examples with the audio track and ask your questions in the comments!

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