Ты чем-то похож на него.

vs: Ты что-то похож на него.

I understand that if the adjective "похожий" were not in the shortened form, it would take the instrumental case here. But I wonder if the adverb "что-то" with the meaning of "somewhat/slightly" is also affected and needs to be in the instrumental?

  • 1
    Ты чем-то похож на него. ~ В тебе есть что-то похожее на него. Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 15:45
  • А чой-то ты похож.
    – bipll
    Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 12:50

3 Answers 3


Чем-то does not mean "somewhat" or "slightly". It means "somehow", "in some vague or elusive way", which is not quite the same. It's quite independent of the predicate, whether adjectival or verbal. You'd also say он чем-то меня раздражает ~"something about him irritates me".

In fact, что-то wouldn't mean "slightly" either here. It's more of an expression of puzzlement or concern: "you look like him, you know".

  • 5
    Hi. Regarding the rationale for using the instrumental, can I translate the sentence literally as: "you are similar to him with a certain something (that I can't quite put my finger on)"? Of course, this basically boils down to saying "somehow". Commented Mar 13, 2018 at 18:16
  • @Alone-zee Yes, that's the idea. Commented Mar 13, 2018 at 18:32

The first sentence is completely regular with no funny business. Чем ты похож на него? — Чем-то.

In the second sentence “что-то” isn’t really part of the sentence but rather it denotes the speaker’s feeling about it, thus it isn’t declined. When someone’s says a very natural “Что-то мне нездоровится” you can think of it as “Что-то даёт мне понять, что мне нездоровится”. Grammatically, it’s like “I think” in “I think I’m ill”, except as usual, Russian lets you place that “что-то” in just about any place in the sentence.

  • there is even an accusatory overtone here for "ты что-то похож" (it brings up an image of a police lineup)
    – jfs
    Commented Mar 14, 2018 at 17:46
  • Hi. I just came across the phrase "Что-то мы здесь засиделись". Does this mean "I think we stayed here too long"? It has nothing to do with "We stayed here somewhat too long", right? Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 3:37
  • 1
    @Con-gras-tue-les-chiens To me, both your English statements sound synonymous, it’s not like “somewhat too long” is a concrete statement. But in general, yes, “Что-то …” is quite close to “I think …”. Also, an almost perfectly synonymous sentence would be “Пожалуй, мы здесь засиделись” — no concrete meaning here as well, just a figure of speech. Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 15:58

To better tease out the semantic role of чем-то, adjective похож may be substituted with the verb походить which is easier to associate with a noun (or in this case a pronoun) in Instrumental and which gives us

Ты чем-то походишь на него

translatable as

You resemble him with something (some of your features)

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