Hello probably this is duplicate question but I still can't understand the difference in use between these 2 words?

Надо и нужно

Can you give me some examples please?

3 Answers 3


Generally the meaning of the words надо and нужно is the same:

Надо (знач. 1), в знач. сказуемое. То же, что нужно (см. нужный в 3 и 4 знач.).
Нaдо работать.
Его беспокойство надо понять.
Надо денег.

They often can be substituted and the meaning of the sentence in most cases will be preserved.

Мне надо поспать and Мне нужно поспать (I need to have a rest).
Надо понимать, что это неправильно and Нужно понимать, что это неправильно. (One needs to understand this isn't correct).

However there are cases when these words in the same context won't be the best choise. E.g. надо can be used for expressing surprise:

Это надо же было так задержаться!

Using of "Нужно" in this context is not the best choice. It is not known to be told / written in this meaning from any trusted source (like explanatory dictionaries); hence translating of such can be quite a big problem for not native Russian speaker. There is a reference with quite disputed but present usage of word "нужно" probably as an idiom like "надо же":

Эту историю Пришвин вскоре описал в рассказе «Сопка Маира», [...] а вот с романом вышла неувязка: услыхав пришвинское «Детство», Семашко воскликнул: — Нужно же написать такую мрачную вещь!

Do note though that it is not well-known form and likely can be understood not as expected (and hence the sense of the whole sentence would be dramatically changed):

Нужно же было написать так! - It was required to write like that!

Depending on the region of usage and difference in language evolution in different areas you may not be understood like you intended to; it's better to not just use it in this context at all.

  • Re. the last example: use of "нужно" is perfectly fine there too. The other answer does a better job showing a case where one word ("нужно") is usable, while the other is not.
    – Dima
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 21:38
  • @Dima I agree that the other answer does better job at explaining difference between these words from grammatical point of view. I disagree that it's fine to use нужно in case of expressing of surprise. This is just has not that particular sense and was mentioned in the other answer.
    – Mr Zak
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 22:15
  • I got about 398,000 arguments that you are wrong :) google.com/…
    – Dima
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 22:59
  • @Dima if you consider jargon examples as confirmation, then yes. I don't rely on those expressions in google as it finds articles written by people not always, to say the least, paying attention at grammar and correcntess. I rely on dictionaries and general usage instead.
    – Mr Zak
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 23:24
  • 1
    @Vitaly: strictly speaking, the google search by Dima does not differentiate between meanings of "it has to be" (это же надо сделать // it has to be done), "I can't believe" (это же надо было так напиться // I can't believe I was so drunk) and sarcastic "you don't say!" (ну надо же!). You cannot use нужно in the third one.
    – Quassnoi
    Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 19:16

Excepts as in idioms (надо же and similar), those two (as adverbs) are complete synonyms.

Note that нужно is not only an adverb but also a short neuter singular adjective (это ведро мне нужно). You cannot replace it with надо, however you can with надобно, though it's somewhat archaic.

Надо itself was conceived as a colloquial contraction of надобно, with the latter having been the only acceptable form in the literary language before the beginning of the XX century.


Let's use English words as helpers as we are here on a bilingual resource.

'Надо' is more close to English 'must do', or 'it is required'.

'Нужно' is more close to 'it is needed'.

Couple of centuries ago 'надо' was more associated with 'надобно' and hence were more close to 'нужно'. Nowadays 'надо' sounds as more direct order/appeal to do something, while 'нужно' explains the appeal by a need.

Надо прийти вовремя. - We must come on time.

Нужно прийти вовремя.- We need to come on time.

'Надо - значит надо' I would translate as 'if we must - we must'.

'Нужно - значит нужно' (which sounds a bit awkward in Russian) I would translate as 'if it is needed - it is needed'.

I'm not saying it is completely equivalent: надо-must, нужно-need, but there is some bias, in my mind at least, to translate it like that in some cases.

  • So надо is like more powerful? Like "we must!l come on time?
    – John
    Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 21:25
  • @Groude: Yes, надо is slightly more powerful than нужно. Maybe not as strong as English must, but close.
    – farfareast
    Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 17:53

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