Russian Language Blog

When “Yes No Maybe” Is A Complete Sentence Posted by on Apr 22, 2020 in Grammar, language

Words or whole phrases, intonation, and stress are used to express confidence and uncertainty in speech. In the Russian language, as well as in other languages, there are formal and informal forms of expression. Let’s look at a few examples.


Image by Ungry Young Man from Flickr

Modal words

Modal words (мода́льные слова́) in the Russian language is the category of words that show the expression (выраже́ние) of a subject’s attitudes (отноше́ния) about an object of speaking or writing. The question of the morphological status of modal words is not yet solved. There are currently several different classifications. The one we use today is considering modal words as a specific part of speech.

There are two types of modal words:

Words expressing varying degrees of confidence (the probability, assumption):

  • ви́димо (apparently)
  • вероя́тно (likely)
  • возмо́жно (possibly)
  • ка́жется (it seems to be)
  • мо́жет быть (maybe)
  • наве́рное и т.п. (probably), etc.

Words expressing different degrees of uncertainty (confidence, logical assessment):

  • наверняка́ (for sure)
  • несомне́нно (undoubtedly)
  • действи́тельно (indeed)
  • коне́чно (certainly)
  • само́ собо́й (of course)
  • очеви́дно и т. п. (obviously), etc.

– Вероя́тно, мирова́я эконо́мика ско́ро си́льно изме́нится. Как Вы счита́ете? (The world economy is likely to change dramatically. What do you think?)

– Несомне́нно. Посмотри́те, что происхо́дит на фо́ндовом рынке. Сейча́с, возмо́жно, наступа́ет отли́чное вре́мя для торго́в. А́кции мно́гих компа́ний, безусло́вно, подни́мутся в цене́ че́рез не́сколько лет. (Undoubtedly. See what happens on the stock market. Now, perhaps, a great time is coming for trading. Shares of many companies, without a doubt, will rise in price after a couple of years.)

Here is another a very common and weird way to express your doubts (сомне́ния) regarding something you are not sure about:

“Yes No, Maybe” as a complete sentence

Decision Dice

Image by Anne-Lise Heinrichs from Flickr

“Yes No, Maybe” (“Да нет, наве́рное” [Da nyet, navera]) makes sense in Russian. “Да нет, наверное” is using when the combination of “Yes”, “No” and “Maybe” is a reply with the not a full certainty, but lining to “No”. It is like “I think it’s more “No” than “Yes”, but I’m not 100% positive” or “I am not sure, but I would say “No”. “Да” in here does not mean anything at all and is used similarly to “Well”. “Да” in Russian is not only the word “Yes”, but also can be used as a filler word. So, the phrase can be translated as “Well, maybe no” :

– Это его́ маши́на? (Is it his car?)

– Да нет, наве́рное. Его́ маши́на кра́сная. (Yes no, maybe => Well, maybe no. His car is red.)


– Дорого́й, тебе́ нра́вится моя́ но́вая причёска? (Honey, do you like my new hairstyle?)

– Да (мы́сленно: Да нет, наве́рное. Я ду́маю, ра́ньше бы́ло лу́чше). (Yes (in the mind: Yes no, maybe => Well, maybe no. I think, it was better before.)


– Вы уве́рены, что не хоти́те пя́тый кусо́чек то́рта? (Are you sure you don’t want the fifth piece of cake?)

– Да нет, наве́рное. Я на дие́те. (Yes no, maybe => Well, maybe no. I am on a diet.)

It is also another variation – “Да нет“. In this case, the speaker does not have that many doubts and is almost certain (почти́ уве́рен) about the answer. “Да нет” literally translates as “Yes no”, but more comparable to “not really” or “probably no”:

– Вы не устали? (Are you tired?)

– Да нет. (Yes no => Probably no.)

How do you express confidence and uncertainty in your language?

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  1. Delia Valente:

    Hi there:
    I’ve been following the blog for at least 10 years. Sometimes I leave a comment, sometimes I pass depending on the topic and whether I have time. I’m a native Russian speaker, I teach Russian and ESL. I would like to comment on the “Yes, no maybe” part of the article. I have never in my life read, heard or used this combination as the writer describes it. I would like to see some examples from literature please. Moreover, there is no such thing as Да, нет, наверное. It doesn’t make sense. The second use of it да нет, наверное is used all the time, but it doesn’t mean Yes, no maybe. Da is not separated from the rest of the sentence so it is not a YES word. Look it up in any dictionary: another meaning of DA is to connect your sentence to the previous message. So it basically means Well, maybe no.

    • nadya:

      @Delia Valente Hi Delia,
      Thank you for your comment! You are absolutely right – “Да нет, наверное” doesn’t mean “Yes, no maybe”, but means “Well, maybe no”. It is exactly what I wanted to say in the post. I appreciate your corrections and would be happy to get more feedback from you in the future 🙂