I am quite confused about the word order in sentences of the following type—

Как бы ни складывалась жизнь христианина,

в какое бы ни жил он время

и к какому сословию бы ни принадлежал, он не избежит одного - борьбы с плотским человеком, в сущности, своим я

What dictates the word order in the bolded sections? For example why, in the second one, is Время so far away from какое, while in the third one сословие is beside какой.

Is there a standard word order for such constructions?

Сколько бы ни старался Барак Обама


Сколько бы Барак Обама ни старался

  • Perhaps obvious but still worth noting that ни is always before the finite predicate (conjunctive fortunately excludes the covert copula situation).
    – Viridianus
    Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 0:11

1 Answer 1


There is no strict rule and no "Correct" word order in such cases. The only thing I can get from top of my mind - the "asking" word (Как, Сколько, в какое, к какому) is always on the first place. And that's all. For your first example valid orders would be:

  • Как бы ни складывалась жизнь христианина
  • Как бы жизнь христианина ни складывалась
  • Как ни складывалась бы жизнь христианина
  • Как жизнь христианина ни складывалась бы (not really super-correct variation, but you will be understood)

And so on.

  • 5
    usually (not always) the last word in the question "focuses" context. With "Как бы ни складывалась жизнь христианина" we are probably interested to see how Christian way of life is different from other, non-Christian life paths. In "Как бы жизнь христианина ни складывалась" we get more focus in iterating different possible trajectories of Christian life. Etc.
    – Arioch
    Commented Jun 7, 2017 at 10:19
  • 3
    Then "бы" is somewhat focusing the doubt and question of mere possibility. So "Как ни складывалась <= бы жизнь христианина" casts a bit more doubt, a bit more uncertainty on the verb, than neutral "Как <= бы ни складывалась жизнь христианина". However in simple questions this difference is infinitesimal. Sometimes this nuance matters in more complex sentences but quite rarely and I would really struggle to make an example. For practical purposes of composing sentences I think this almost invisible difference may be just skipped.
    – Arioch
    Commented Jun 7, 2017 at 10:24
  • Usually subject-verb-object word order is considered neutral. If you change it, you make it for reason. Either to emphasize something or may be just to make the sentence sound more pleasant in the musical sense. For example, "Как бы он ни жил" has this hard-to-pronounce sequence "он ни".
    – AlexVB
    Commented Jun 7, 2017 at 17:28

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