ничего

Jervoltage

Senior Member
Hi,

From Teach Yourself Russian:

...note that ничего is the accusative of ничто: Он ничего не сказал об этом.

Isn't ничего the genitive of ничто, not the accusative, please?
 
  • Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    And now that I think about it, "ничего" is used colloquially as the nominative as well: "Ничего меня не мучает." (= "Nothing bothers me.")
     

    Maroseika

    Moderator
    Russian
    ...note that ничего is the accusative of ничто: Он ничего не сказал об этом.
    Isn't ничего the genitive of ничто, not the accusative, please?
    Some Russian dictionaries interpret this ничего a bit differently - as the colloquial indeclinable negative pronoun. However it seems to me you are right. If it really were accustaive, the following two phrases would be grammatically equal:
    Он не спел песню.
    Он не спел ничего.
    But in fact Он не спел ничего is equal to Он не спел ни чего as in Он не спел ни слова.
     

    igusarov

    Senior Member
    Russian
    ...note that ничего is the accusative of ничто: Он ничего не сказал об этом.
    Isn't ничего the genitive of ничто, not the accusative, please?
    You're absolutely right, "ничего" is the genitive case. I think the book got it wrong. It is perfectly legal to use genitive for objects in negative sentences: "Это не имеет значения", "Я не хочу пива", nothing colloquial about it. Though, accusative is also possible.

    And now that I think about it, "ничего" is used colloquially as the nominative as well: "Ничего меня не мучает." (= "Nothing bothers me.")
    This is not an easy example, even for an experienced Russian speaker... Keywords: "генитив субъекта". In brief, sometimes the object in genitive acts as the subject.
    "Отец не был на море" - "Отца не было на море".
    "Письмо не пришло" - "Письма не пришло".
    "Катастрофа не произошла" - "Катастрофы не произошло".
    One of the possible explanations is that the noun is genitive is actually the object to an impersonal sentence, but it looks (and is perceived) as the subject.
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    Some Russian dictionaries interpret this ничего a bit differently - as the colloquial indeclinable negative pronoun. However it seems to me you are right. If it really were accustaive, the following two phrases would be grammatically equal:
    Он не спел песню.
    Он не спел ничего.
    But in fact Он не спел ничего is equal to Он не спел ни чего as in Он не спел ни слова.
    Then how do you explain the other forms some as "ничему", "ничем", "ни о чём"?
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    This is not an easy example, even for an experienced Russian speaker... Keywords: "генитив субъекта". In brief, sometimes the object in genitive acts as the subject.
    "Отец не был на море" - "Отца не было на море".
    "Письмо не пришло" - "Письма не пришло".
    "Катастрофа не произошла" - "Катастрофы не произошло".
    One of the possible explanations is that the noun is genitive is actually the object to an impersonal sentence, but it looks (and is perceived) as the subject.
    But then it is inconsistent with "никто". You say "Никто меня не мучает.", not "Никого меня не мучает."
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    But then it is inconsistent with "никто". You say "Никто меня не мучает.", not "Никого меня не мучает."
    But you say "Никого не было ". Slavic languages had once a general rule that the object in a negative sentence was in gentive, instead of accusative. Russian has moved away from this rule, introducing accusative also in negative sentences.
     
    Last edited:

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    The variation "ничто/ничего" and "что/чего" haven't much to do with the examples mentioned above. Both "чего" and "ничего" can be considered not just genetive forms, but also as separate pronouns in modern Russian (and are mentioned as such in many dictionaries, in fact; see Ozhegov).
    But you say "Никого не было ".
    ...And it's just impossible to say "никто не было" or even "никто не был" (the last one means "nobody was" instead of "there was nobody"); no variation again inside the same synthactical construction. In the same time, pronouns "что" and "чего", as well as "ничто" and "ничего", are basically interchangeable in colloquial speech (in fact, "genitive" variants are preferred in it).
     
    Last edited:

    Maroseika

    Moderator
    Russian
    Then how do you explain the other forms some as "ничему", "ничем", "ни о чём"?
    Ни о чем is not the form of ничто (actually, ничто and никто have no Instrumentals).
    As for other two, I think they also can be interpreted like ничего.
     

    ahvalj

    Senior Member
    Ни о чем is not the form of ничто (actually, ничто and никто have no Instrumentals).
    As for other two, I think they also can be interpreted like ничего.
    Что вечно под луной? — Ничто не вечно под луной
    Чего она боится? — Ничего она не боится
    К чему не прикасаться? — Ни к чему не прикасаться
    Чем это измерить? — Ничем это не измерить
    Перед чем не пасовать? — Ни перед чем не пасовать
    О чём не беспокоиться? — Ни о чём не беспокоиться

    Likewise, «кто/никто».
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    «Никто не был столь далёк от истины, как Awwal в эту минуту»
    You cannot say "никого не было столь далеко от истины". And you cannot say "никто не был в комнате". Again, here you're trying to mix two different constructions with both different meaning and different synthax.
     

    ahvalj

    Senior Member
    You cannot say "никого не было столь далеко от истины". And you cannot say "никто не был в комнате". Again, here you're trying to mix two different constructions with both different meaning and different synthax.
    Then, please, try to make it clear to the foreign speaker who has started the topic. My impression is exactly that the posters have confused everything during the discussion.
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Then, please, try to make it clear to the foreign speaker who has started the topic. My impression is exactly that the posters have confused everything during the discussion.
    I just wanted to point out that "чего" instead of "что" (pr.) and "ничего" instead of "ничто" don't have much to do with the provided examples of genitive subjects amd similar constructions, at least on the synchronistic level. Here it's more productive to consider them as the separate pronouns, not as the genitive forms.
     
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