Can anyone, please, parse this sentence for me and tell me what part of speech is "было" here?

Хорошо, что хоть он пришёл, а то я было подумал, что и его похитили.

4 Answers 4


In this sentence было is a particle, used in colloquial speech, а то я было подумал, что ... can be translated as "for I was at the point of thinking that ...", or "for I nearly thought that ...", or "for I was just about to think that ...". The whole sentence can be translated as "It is good that at least he came, for I was just about to think that he had been kidnapped, too." You can read about было as a particle here, here (§ 1694), or here (everything is in Russian).


It's a remnant of Past Perfect (Pluperfect), as suggested by this article; nowadays it's almost exclusively used to describe an "annulled action" which was cancelled by an action expressed in a Past Simple tense. And, since the original Pluperfect is lost, as of now "было" is indeed merely a particle.


This is a particle, or, to be more precise, a verbal particle.

This very particle is mostly used with perfect verbs in past tense, since, as it already has been mentioned here, it is used to describe an action which someone had an intention to take, but this action didn't happen (for some reasons, for example, one had changed is mind) to the full.

There is related participle чуть было не, which is also can be used mostly with perfect verbs in past tense.

Be warned, besides those two forms there exists yet another participle derived from быть - бывало, and this one should not be confused with было - it gives to a phrase a tone of periodicity, frequency: "В молодости я, бывало, выпивал порядочно" (I used to drink a lot).


Было here is a PARTICLE with a force similar to English "started to" or "was starting to:"

"It's a good thing he turned up - I was starting to think they kidnapped him too."

  • You better put it as a comment instead of an answer as it doesn't answer my question at all.
    – brilliant
    Commented Jan 11, 2015 at 17:47
  • Now it's an answer.
    – CocoPop
    Commented Apr 15, 2015 at 0:23
  • It's always useful (at least for me) to see the English equivalent. But, unfortunately, there is omitted хоть он = "he was the only one of all ... ", as the particle и seemed to suggest in the и его (тоже). For example, Years had passed since anyone had shown any kindness.=Года прошли с того последнего раза, когда хоть кто-нибудь выказал (ему) признательность. "How, Mr. Langdon? ONE plausible scenario." = Как, мистер Лангдон? Хоть один правдоподобный сценарий.
    – Avtokod
    Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 7:10
  • The concept represented by хоть in Russian, is indicated in the English as an intonation, which is sometimes expressed by italics. Hence, I've changed my answer accordingly.
    – CocoPop
    Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 11:31

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