A Whole Lot of Nothing: Sayings with Ничего in Russian Posted by Maria on Jun 29, 2015 in Russian for beginners
Ничего́ (nothing) one of these seemingly basic words that you learn in the first months of learning Russian. However, it is also one that appears in a number of idioms and expressions that are not immediately obvious to the learner.
1. Ничего for doing well
Ничего is a popular response to the question “Как дела́?” It is a neutral answer, roughly equivalent to “alright.” Another answer with a similar meaning is “Норма́льно” or “Потихо́ньку.”
2. Ничего (стра́шного) for no worries
Ничего can also be a response to “Извини́те” (I’m sorry) or any other apology or explanation.
– Я забы́л поли́ть цветы́ (I forgot to water the flowers).
– Ничего́ стра́шного (That’s OK).
3. Ничего́ себе! for surprise
Ничего себе is used to express surprise or amazement. Many people oppose what they see as unjustified use of borrowed interjections like “ва́у” (wow) and prefer to use expressions like ничего себе or у́х ты!
– У мое́й ба́бушки бы́ло пя́теро дете́й (My grandma had five children).
– Ничего себе! (Oh wow!)
Ни фига́ себе is a colloquial and some would say vulgar variant of this phrase. There are many other similar expressions, some quite vulgar, that follow the same syntactic pattern and convey amazement.
4. Ничего for approval
Ничего can also mean that something or someone is alright or cool. “А до́мик у них ничего” (Their house is not too shabby). When used about a person, this usually refers to their looks. “А сосе́дка-то вполне́ ничего́” (Our neighbor is quite alright).
5. Ничего не поделаешь for acceptance
Ничего́ не поде́лаешь is used to express resignation and acceptance of the situation. Literally, the phrase means “there’s nothing we can do.”
Ничего не поделаешь, пришло́сь встре́чать Но́вый год в аэропорту́. – We had no choice but to celebrate the New Year at the airport. [As you may know, New Year’s is the biggest holiday of the year in Russia, and you don’t want to miss out on it.]
Are there any other expressions with ничего you can think of? This seemingly simple word is used in ways that may be unique to Russian and not obvious from its primary meaning, so I hope this post is useful. I would like to finish it with a song that makes extensive use of this word.