Difference between кто-то and кто-нибудь

tgb123

New Member
English/Welsh
Could someone please explain to me the difference between кто-то and кто-нибудь. At the moment I only understand both to mean 'someone.' Also, does the same difference exist between что-то and что-нибудь? Your help will be most appreciated!
 
  • Grizlyk

    Senior Member
    Actualy, I dont know If it always works, but ....

    кто-то = someone
    кто-нибудь = anyone
    что-то = something
    что-нибудь = anything

    and, yeah, sometimes they can be changable.
     

    palomnik

    Senior Member
    English
    I could have sworn that we dealt with this subject somewhere before, but I can't find it, so...

    They can both mean "somebody" in certain contexts. It is fatally easy for an English speaker to assume that кто-нибудь means "anybody" and кто-то means "somebody."

    кто-нибудь is always indefinite. It is usually used in questions, commands and statements in the future.

    кто-то is definite but not yet defined. It is usually used in statements in the past.

    In the present, either can be used, depending on how definite (or indefinite) you are trying to imply.

    Кто-нибудь звонил? - Did anybody call? (a general question)
    Кто-то звонил? - Somebody called? (you see the message machine blinking)
    Кто-то звонил - Somebody called.
    Кто-нибудь, наверно, принесёт вина. - Somebody will probably bring wine.
    К нам кто-то идёт. - Somebody's coming to see us.
    По субботам к нам всегда кто-нибудь приходит - Somebody always comes to see us on Saturday.

    I guess the simplest way to put it is that if "somebody" can be replaced with "somebody or another" in English, then it should be translated by кто-нибудь.

    Of course, кто-нибудь is not the only way to translate "anybody", but that's another story.
     
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    Lemminkäinen

    Senior Member
    Norwegian (bokmål)
    кто-нибудь is always indefinite. It is usually used in questions, commands and statements in the future.
    Also, as illustrated in your last example, when an action is repeated. It's also used in conditional sentences (though those might to a certain degree fall under "statements in the future"): Если кто-нибудь придёт, то сообщи мне об этом.

    You can also draw a line between information that is unknown to the speaker and what is known (which is just a more pragmatic way of what you said regarding definiteness and indefiniteness, really).

    When you ask "Кто-нибудь звонил?", you don't know whether anyone called or not. The person who answers (who of course knows this), uses кто-то.

    Another example:

    Я что-нибудь принесу на вечер - the subject intends to bring something, but is probably not certain exactly what.
    Я что-то принесу на вечер - the subject knows what he'll bring, but doesn't specify.
     

    Kolan

    Banned
    Russian (CCCP)
    Those examples are quite illustrative, thanks, Lemminkäinen!

    However, the nuances are more complex compared to what you suggested.

    If I ask "Кто-нибудь звонил?" = I do not know if anyone ever called and I am pretty much indifferent (not worried, rather curious) to knowing the person who might have called.

    If I ask "Кто-то звонил?", then (colloquially) it may mean the same as the above, as well (except of, maybe, I am less indifferent to the fact that someone could have called). But! If I suspect that something happened during my absence then it means that I believe that this is related to the fact that there was a call and I am trying to make a guess who might have called.

    Я что-нибудь принесу на вечер - the subject intends to bring something, but has not made up his mind at all so far and will think about this later on. Still, it could be understood contextually whether the person intends to bring выпивку (and not закуску, or vice versa).

    Я что-то принесу на вечер - 1) the subject knows what he'll bring (морковку), but does not want to specify, 2) the subject intends to bring something that could be described only vaguely (but it would meet the party's expectations, e.g., oвощи) or not at all (что-то съедобное), leaving the final decision for a later moment.

    Sorry for the lengthy explanations.
     

    Ptak

    Senior Member
    Rußland
    Я что-то принесу на вечер - 1) the subject knows what he'll bring (морковку), but does not want to specify
    In this case I'd say "Я кое-что принесу..."
    что-то принесу" sounds a bit odd to me.

    2) the subject intends to bring something that could be described only vaguely (but it would meet the party's expectations, e.g., oвощи) or not at all (что-то съедобное), leaving the final decision for a later moment.
    If I understood your English explanation correctly, I think I'd use here что-нибудь.
     
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    Kolan

    Banned
    Russian (CCCP)
    In this case I'd say "Я кое-что принесу..."
    что-то принесу" sounds a bit odd to me.


    If I understood your English explanation correctly,
    I can't parse your English either, but what's wrong if we plan a party tonight and I say "Ты принесёшь что-то, я принесу что-то, каждый что-то принесёт - и будет что(-то) поесть-выпить".

    If you insist on кое-что, then it is way more intriguing for the people you're talking to, while что-то is fairly neutral yet specific as compared to что-нибудь.
     

    Ptak

    Senior Member
    Rußland
    If you insist on кое-что, then it is way more intriguing for the people you're talking to, while что-то is fairly neutral
    I see your point. But, as I said, "я что-то принесу" doesn't sound fine to me. It can be used, of course, in a colloquial speech, but if I saw it in some to be corrected text, I'd replace it by "кое-что" which sounds far better here.

    "Ты принесёшь что-то, я принесу что-то, каждый что-то принесёт - и будет что(-то) поесть-выпить".
    I maybe captious, but I think I'd say either:
    "Что-то ты принесёшь, что-то я принесу..." (with this word order and with a stress on the pronouns)
    or:
    "Ты принесёшь что-нибудь, я принесу что-нибудь..."
     

    Grizlyk

    Senior Member
    "кое-что" is used to express something that isnt very important but can be interesting. It is rather popular expression but not as popular as "что-то" o "что-нибудь".


    I have brought you something interesting.

    Я принёс тебе кое-что интересное.
     

    Ptak

    Senior Member
    Rußland
    "кое-что" is used to express something that isnt very important but can be interesting.
    I'm not sure it's a very good explanation...

    Я должен сказать вам что-то важное. = Я должен сказать вам кое-что важное.

    Or:
    I know something = Мне кое-что известно. (this кое-что can be veeery important)
     
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    Kolan

    Banned
    Russian (CCCP)
    Кое-что would be used, unlike что-то, in the context where everyone knows what they are talking about but prefer to avoid calling things by their own names (euphemism), making allusion to inappropriate words.

    Змей Горыныч взмыл на древо, ну - раскачивать его :
    "Выводи, Разбойник, девок, - пусть покажут кой-чего!
    (Владимир Высоцкий, Песня-сказка о Нечисти).
    http://ktmz.boom.ru/songs/visotskii/vzapovedn.html

    Everyone understands that the terrible creature wants to watch poor girls performing public striptease.

    (Here кой-чего stands for an illiteral transformation of кое-что.) We cannot use что-то in such a context.
     
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