I sort of know (пошло оно всё ...), but I have heard:

What does the бы addition mean and, moreover, why is the sentence having now а не at the beginning? An acquaintance explained me that this is a kind of conjunctive mood. The phrase is from a museum guide (sick of her work which, apparently apocryphally) spoken instead of Pushkin's quote. Is this a practical structure or rather poetic?

  • what's made you recreate the question which has been closed as duplicate?
    – shabunc
    Mar 19, 2018 at 21:07
  • @shabunc I change the question (which anyway wasn't a dupe), so that is now clear that now it's not a duplicate.
    – c.p.
    Mar 20, 2018 at 5:32
  • what makes you think that question "what does the бы addition mean" differs from the question about using "бы" in general?
    – shabunc
    Mar 20, 2018 at 14:23
  • @shabunc E.g. why would Pushkin would say that? What's the poetic tone, is it a normal conjunctive? Etc.
    – c.p.
    Mar 20, 2018 at 16:59

2 Answers 2


It's the same as if the English fuck you were framed as

Why wouldn't you go and fuck yourself / fuck off?

Wouldn't you rather ....?


How about you fuck off / yourself?

It's to express either sarcastically greater contempt and disdain through framing it as a polite question or alternatively to somewhat mitigate the offensiveness. And if addressing an inanimate object it's often an expression of deep disappointment rather than anger.

The construct а не + verb in past tense/infinitive + бы basically expresses a cautious question about a possibility, like wouldn't.... The particle а isn't indispensable but it's an integral part of spoken language which makes it more emphatic and colorful.

  • in case of truly deep disappointment, it would rather be "да не пошло..." than "а не пошло..." :-D
    – Arioch
    Apr 23, 2018 at 10:03

This is definitely a practical structure, used in everyday life.

One use of "а не ... бы ..." is to convey a conjunctive (subjunctive) mood, like in this particular case.

Another use is to soften the rudeness of obscenities. Without "а не ... бы ..." the phrase becomes declarative instead of interrogative, which would make it more rude. This softening effect is more pronounced in imperative/interrogative variants. "Пошел ты на ..." is much more rude than "А не пошел бы ты на ..." (however, both variants are rude).

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