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"Ничего" - does it really mean "nothing"?


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Hello Everyone,

Всем привет!

Hope all is well.

I have a question for you: Do you know what the word "ничего" means in Russian?

The answer that springs into mind is a simple "nothing". And it is correct, as the word is most often used in the following way:

Ты что-нибудь видишь? - Нет, ничего.

Can you see anything? - No, I see nothing.

However, the word is also used in answer to the "How is it going?" question. You would hear a similar "nothing much" in English.

Quite often the word is used to calm someone (or even oneself) down.

Это ничего, ничего. Все пройдет. - It's OK. It'll pass. We feel, that in reality there is "a lot" going on for that person, the most tragic circumstances may be unfolding in the background, but we'll keep hearing "Ничего, ничего, все пройдет." - It's OK, everything will pass.

I remember reading a story written by a German linguist (or may be he was just interested in learning languages) who was responsible for taking the Russian prisoners to Germany during the WWII. He got very curious about the word "ничего" he kept hearing all the time from both the people he corralled to be later transported to Germany and their relatives who were left behind.

This has turned to be a rather sad post... Cheer up! "Ничего! Прорвемся!" - It's OK! We'll get through it! as the Russians still say. :)

Bye and Good Luck!

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