What is the difference between "а то" and "а не то"?

2 Answers 2


А то and а не то (conjunctions) are used as synonyms when they connect two sentences and the action in the second sentence could happen but for the real action or event from the first one.( meaning otherwise, or else -иначе, в противном случае). Such contexts often refer to threat.

Отдай машинку, а то <а не то> маме пожалуюсь. Придется дать кролику капусты, а то <а не то> он убежит.

Another usage where these conjunctions are synonymous is connecting phrases or sentences with obvious change of actions ( meaning "or"-или)

Купались, ходили за грибами, а то <а не то> (или) брали лодку и уплывали на соседний остров

Иногда засыпала сразу и спала всю ночь, а то <а не то> до рассвета читала романы. = Иногда засыпала сразу и спала всю ночь или (же) до рассвета читала романы.

Even when these conjunctions are synonymous, there's still a slight difference in the function of the word то, which refers to the previous context in а не то and to the context which follows in а то.

These conjunctions are not interchanged expressing other meanings.

1.А то can express the reason( meaning because)

Пойду, а то уже поздно [‘пойду, потому что уже поздно’].

2.А то showing a change of the former situation The situations are in opposition.

Теперь ей лучше (now), а то все болела (earlier). Несколько ночей прошло, пока научились(then) находить свой овраг, а то плутали.(earlier).

  1. А то! colloquial interjection meaning Sure, of course, yes

Пойдешь на каток? – А то!

I didn't consider these combinations with "что, чтобы". It's another big question.


А не то is somewhat antiquated, and doesn't have а то's range of other possible meanings besides "or else".

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