5

Up until I started reading through Russian Review Grammar by Marianna Bogojavlensky I had only seen ничего offered as a translation for the English "nothing." Bogojavlensky's text, however, often uses нечего in its example dialogues as in the following sentence:

Если это так, то я могу чувствовать только жалость к тебе, и мне нечего больше прибавить к тому, что я сказал.

Here is the translation the text offers of this sentence: 'If this is so, I can feel only pity for you, and I have nothing to add to what I have said.'

Is the use of нечего in this sentence just a simpler way of saying "у меня нет ничего больше прибавить... ?" One thread I looked at on Word Reference said that ничего stresses a kind of "absolute negative" while нечего merely stresses absence. Can this distinction explain the example given above? Yandex's dictionary defines нечего as 'there is nothing to + inf' or as 'it's no good to + inf.' While I can understand how these definitions differentiate the usage of нечего from the usage of ничего I don't see how this makes "и мне нечего больше прибавить..." preferable to "у меня нет ничего больше прибавить... ?

5

Ничего along with a verb requires double negation, so it's always about negating actions. But нечего is used with a positive form of the verb, and it denotes a non-existence of an object suitable for action.

So

Я ничего не скажу --> I say nothing; I won't say anything
Мне нечего сказать --> I have nothing to say; There's nothing to say

Я ничего не прибавлю --> I won't add anything
Мне нечего прибавить --> I have nothing to add

On the matter of "у меня нет ничего больше добавить..." - it's really ugly, no native speaker says so.

0

I think the difference is somewhat akin to "there's nothing" vs. "there isn't anything". For example:

I'll tell you nothing.

Я тебе ничего не скажу.

versus

I can't tell you anything.

Мне нечего тебе сказать.

  • But you have only ничего in both examples, there's no нeчего. – Yellow Sky Jan 14 '16 at 3:19
  • Sorry, corrected. – mustaccio Jan 14 '16 at 3:51
  • Would the second example you've given be better translated as 'There is nothing for me to tell you'? Also, could you comment on the example I've given, specifically why нечего is preferable to ничего in that example? – студент001 Jan 14 '16 at 3:52
  • Yes, that would be proper translation. Indeed, "нечего" carries internally the additional sense 'there is (nothing)' as opposed to "ничего"'. The expression with "нечего" is a bit 'less responsible', it refers to some external reason (I can't tell anything because there's nothing I can tell). – Alex_ander Jan 14 '16 at 6:12
  • @Alex _ander +1 – V.V. Jan 14 '16 at 7:59

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