Я тоже в долгу не оставалась.

I wonder if this is an idiomatic phrase that either means paying someone back for something bad or repaying someone for something good, depending on context?

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    normally for something bad, as repaying for something good very seldom get mentioned, people tend to be more vengeful than grateful... also notable here is Locative case ending of в долгУ Commented Feb 12, 2018 at 15:00

4 Answers 4


Yes, не оста́ться в долгу́ is an idiomatic phrase meaning (be quick) to repay someone like for like, either for good or bad. When said about a good thing, the phrase can mean literally 'not to remain indebted', 'to repay':

  • Фабри́ций не пожела́л оста́ться в долгу́ и отпусти́л ро́вно сто́лько же эпи́рских пле́нных. = Fabricius did not want to remain obliged and released exactly the same number of Epirian prisoners.

On the flip side, the phrase can mean 'hit back when you are hit', 'make a move when your opponent makes a move':

  • «Мицуби́си» не оста́лась в долгу́, отве́тив «Хо́нде» городски́м вседоро́жником. = Mitsubishi did not lag behind for long and responded to Honda by (creating) an urban off-road truck.

In your example the verb is imperfective past feminine (остава́лась) which means that she is either very competitive or she likes returning the good done to her. I'd recommend that you find out which it is before dating her. ;)


"В долгу не остаться" may be used with good things as well as bad things.

In this case, as a standalone sentence in an imperfective form, I would say it's rather negative than positive. But this might be just my own perception.


Не остаться в долгу у кого (перед кем) - Отплатить кому-л. тем же самым (поступком, отношением и т.п.) - i.e. pay back with a similar attitude, action, etc.

source: paper copy Толковый словарь (Кузнецов). link http://slovariki.org/tolkovyj-slovar-kuznecova/13593 (a diamond sign means phraseological use)


Situations of usage:

Я в долгу не останусь. A promise to pay back even more for a favor from someone who's typically not a close friend. In some rare context it can be a threat.

Я в долгу не остался. I paid back (likely) even more to someone. Idiomatically, it can mean fighting back (in proper context).

Я в долгу не оставался. (imperfective sense) Each time I gave a proper answer to somebody acting against me (or was continuously fighting back).

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