Надо же, кто бы мог подумать?

Wiki says that "надо же" is used to express surprise, so I'm assuming an expression like "кто бы мог подумать" can be coupled with it.

Can you give some other examples of how "надо же" is used in conversation?

And I wonder if "надо же" might not be a shortened form of an expression that includes some verb.

  • "Надо же" adds negative sense to the event. "Ничего себе" can be used both positively and negatively.
    – Alexander
    Apr 27, 2018 at 19:15
  • 3
    It's possible to use it in any situation where surprise is implied (but I guess no matter positive or negative). It seems that functionally in some situations надо же is similar to English wow, because it's usually an exclamation or statement of suprise.
    – alexsms
    Apr 28, 2018 at 7:22

3 Answers 3


I am not sure, but I suppose "надо же" is indeed a shortened "надо жe было этому случиться!" which is something like "Must really something like that had to happen!"

Consider the 1986 Soviet song, where repeat is built over those words.


Yes, "Надо же!" expresses surprise and can as well be followed by "Кто бы мог подумать!" A few examples:

Надо же как время летит!

― Такой молодой ― и надо же! ― вздохнула Нюра.

...И надеваю третью коробку себе на голову. ― Надо же! ― удивляется папа. ― И голова пригодилась!

(I can't recommend ruscorpora.ru enough: it's a great resource when you need examples.)

Надо же can have many continuations, e.g.

Надо же было такому случиться! (Must this have happened?)

Надо же было попасть под дождь! (Did I have to get in the rain?)

Надо же было сломать ногу! (What are the chances of me breaking a leg?!)

Not every надо же expresses surprise. It can simply mean "one must":

Надо же что-то придумать! - We have to think of something!

Надо же быть объективным. - One has to be objective.

  • What is the function of "же" here? Is it close to "doch" in German in the sense of an emphatic "but"? Apr 27, 2018 at 18:31
  • 2
    Yes, же emphasizes the word it is attached to and makes the whole phrase more emotional: Я же говорил! - I told you so! Apr 27, 2018 at 18:39
  • @Alone-zee i believe yes, it's a close equivalent of doch, i just realized that though is the English form of doch and must be of the same etymology, so Sergey's example can be reworded as Must this have happened though? Apr 27, 2018 at 18:41
  • Am I correct in assuming that you can use "надо же" in a context like this: "Я смог еще раз (сделать что-нибудь). Надо же, кто бы мог подумать?" Apr 27, 2018 at 18:49
  • Yes, as long as there's surprise against expectations or preconceptions Apr 27, 2018 at 18:51
  • First case is an expression of some negative surprise:

"Надо же было проиграть столько денег!"

"Надо же было мне ввязаться в их ссору!

So, here we mean, that our doings had some negative consequences

  • Another case is when you want to express, that you're or somebody else extremely need to take some actions:

"Надо же как то отсюда выбраться!"

"Надо же что-то предпринять в такой ситуации"

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.