In what cases can we leave out "ли"?

Я не знаю умер он или нет


Я не знаю умер ли он.

Basically when should I use ли?


2 Answers 2


We use "ли" mostly in yes/no questions

Любите ли вы театр?

You can leave out ли

Вы любите театр?

Mind the word order.We use inversion in the first sentence. We also use "ли" in reported yes/no questions like in those examples of yours.

Я не знаю, придет ли он сегодня.

Ли functions as if or whether. We can't leave out ли or change the word order,but we can use another sentence with almost the same meaning with или.

Я не знаю, придет он или нет сегодня.

Нет adds the emphasis to the sentence.

  • Do I need special intonation if I don't use ли? (In the last one).
    – VCH250
    Nov 28, 2016 at 18:23
  • Whether you want to add intonation or not is a choice of your own. Nov 28, 2016 at 19:19
  • 2
    Stress the verb придет and emphatic нет equally. A rising intonation is used sometimes to express doubt, but neutral is also common, like in a usual affirmative sentence.
    – V.V.
    Nov 28, 2016 at 19:20

Basically, "ли" can be treated as "whether"/"if". When you want to ask some indirect question. For instance:

I don't know whether he has done his homework or not.

Я не знаю сделал ли он свою домашнюю работу или нет.

  • I think ли (or или нет) is redundant in your Russian version; ли and или usually don't combine well in simple sentences like this one.
    – Alex_ander
    Nov 29, 2016 at 16:09
  • Not sure from the strict grammar point of view about this redundancy, but basically it does work in everyday speech. Nov 30, 2016 at 7:58
  • 1
    Yes, one can hear smth. like that here and there, but unlikely it's a good learning example, unless you say that ли must be omitted in it (considering the question asked). Here's learnrussianweb.com/2010/05/1_4737.html a direct reminder to a learner: В предложениях с "или" нам не нужно "ли"! We don´t need ли in или-sentences! (with examples)
    – Alex_ander
    Nov 30, 2016 at 9:31

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