My learning book for Russian gives the two following example sentences about conditional:

  • Он сказал бы
  • Мы бы хотели

My question is: can we put interchangeably "бы" before or after the verb it "qualifies"? Is the meaning anyhow affected by the position of "бы"?

  • 1
    in fact in colloquial speech it can even be - "мы бы хотели бы" )))
    – shabunc
    Jan 17 '18 at 23:16

can we put interchangeably "бы" before or after the verb it "qualifies"?

Yes, except:

  • the reduced form "б" cannot follow a consonant, so, in particular, it cannot stand after a verb in the masculine form, i.e. "Я б сказал..." is right, while "Я сказал б..." is wrong (however, "Я сказала б" is still OK);
  • "бы" is an enclitic, so it must always follow some word; in particular, this leaves only a single option if a subject is omitted, or if using the reverse word order: "Сказал бы я...".

Is the meaning anyhow affected by the position of "бы"?

No, it's an arbitrary choice.

  • Thank you very much for your answer! Can you point me to more information about the reduced form "б", I never heard of it before?
    – filaton
    Jan 17 '18 at 11:19
  • @filaton The particle "б" is just a reduced form. Its meaning is precisely the same as of "бы".
    – Matt
    Jan 17 '18 at 12:32
  • I suspect that in written language, the usage of the form б is mainly limited to poetry, where it often helps to modify the number of syllables in a line ("я б для батюшки-царя родила богатыря" - Pushkin), and also, to transcription of colloquial speech. Most likely, б would look strange written in a document.
    – Alex_ander
    Jan 17 '18 at 15:17
  • Ok, thank you Matt and @Alex_ander for your precisions!
    – filaton
    Jan 17 '18 at 18:46

The meaning varies slightly depending on both intonation and position of the particle. The nuances are however not perceived by native speakers themselves.

By and large, the enclitic put into hierachial commentary on the sentence topic places the following part of the sentence into conditional modality, e. g.

Он сказал бы. (a conditional ellipsis with a reference to smth said earlier).

Он бы сказал. (an emphasis on conditionality of the action).

Сказал бы он. (the actor emphasised).

Сказал он бы. (an ellipsis / incomplete phrase).

Мы бы хотели. (the action is emphasised as conditional).

Мы хотели бы. (an ellipsis / incomplete phrase).

Хотели бы мы. (the actors are emphasised).

Хотели мы бы. (an ellipsis / incomplete phrase).

In a final position, the particle can provide conditional modality for the preceding phrase as well.


Most often the particle бы takes either the second place in the sentence, or the place after the predicate. More info: rusgram.ru (in Russian).
The meaning isn't affected by the position.


по моему так разницы нету.... он сказал БЫ, он БЫ сказал,
можно так и так произносить писать. так же с фразой, мы хотели БЫ, мы БЫ хотели, но выбирать надо что то одно)

In my opinion there is no difference .... he said, he would say, you can so and so pronounce to write. so with the phrase, we would like, we would like, but you have to choose something that one)

правда перевод отличается если менять местами но на самом деле это не важно

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