Не могу отделаться от мысли, что ...

Не могу избавиться от мысли, что ...

In the phrase above, I feel more comfortable using "отделаться", while in the following phrase I opt for "избавиться". That said, I'm not sure if the other option in each is downright impossible. I wonder if "избавиться" tends to be followed by something more negative?

избавиться от моей компании

отделаться от моей компании

2 Answers 2


The version избавиться just points at the result of getting rid of smth/smb, while the version отделаться (sometimes, чем) means doing that with some effort or paying a price for it, which is not necessarily mentioned. An example with mentioning the price: отделался лёгким испугом (he got rid of some situation at the price of just being frightened a bit; you can't use избавился here). So there's an extra emphasis on the effort in your first example and therefore it might sound more convincing.

P. S. One more aspect of difference. The usage of отделаться is limited to cases where some animated (usually human) force is involved: getting rid of some annoying person (typically, of their presence but it's also possible to say отделаться окончательно) like а taxman, a creditor or a blackmailer; of a bothering dog, etc. - by doing, giving or promising them something. In case of annoying thoughts (as in your example) it is also OK, since their source is human (like, action of 'someone inside my head'). But you need to use the more general избавиться when speaking about e. g. a disease or some useless thing which you are going to sell or to throw away.

  • the last point, I guess, re-iterates the first. When you say "отделаться" the one time transaction is stressed. Some action is applied upon you (like taxman visited you, or like some idee fixe crossing your mind again) and then you somehow repulse that action with your own counter-action, with some effort and price of course. This action vs action transaction is what seems being in focus. And the "action applied puon you" indeed implies some quasi-animate actor doing it. With "избавиться" you focus on the situation itself, the transformation "what was and what is now" instead.
    – Arioch
    May 7, 2018 at 9:24

Although this distinction may not be strictly followed in usage, избавиться от has a connotation of permanence and profundity, while отделаться от is rather temporary and situational.

It's possible отделаться от without избавиться от.

отделаться is translated as to shrug off, to shake off

избавиться is a cognate of избавление - salvation, deliverence, so when one избавляется one salvages/extricates oneself, which is usually construed as having lasting effect.

That which one избавляется от exerts greater influence on or power over them.

In a collocation such as избавиться от болезни/привычки/проблемы/иллюзий/(any personal quality) it can't be replaced with отделаться.

Secondary derived meaning of избавиться от as applied to animates is to kill and as applied to inanimates is to dispose of. Отделаться doesn't have such connotations.

In Russian - English dictionaries both verbs have virtually identical translations.
In the dictionary Бабенко Л.Г. — «Толковый словарь русских глаголов. Идеографическое описание Английские эквиваленты. Синонимы. Антонимы» on p. 234 (and in other Russian - Russian dictionaries) both are listed as synonyms of each other, yet the examples for избавляться specifially, in my view, point at a permanence of the result

Чтобы спасти себя и весь отряд, нужно было быстрее избавляться от предателя.

Она как-будто хочет избавиться от отцовской кабалы.

  • 1
    It's possible отделаться от, but not избавиться от. For me both of these phrases are perfectly acceptable and interchangable May 4, 2018 at 9:53
  • thanks for rounding down my score... but as Alex_ander has shown they're not interchangeable at the very least for the phrase отделался лёгким испугом, and i did make a reservation about the usage May 4, 2018 at 10:18
  • I wouln't have had anything about a phrase "In certain cases it's possible отделаться от, but not избавиться от". But your variant is misleading in and of itself, since it implies that it is always not possible "избавиться от". But this phrase is used pretty widely: "избавиться от проблем / обузы / болезней / квартиры", you name it May 4, 2018 at 10:57
  • you may have misconstrued the statement, i meant that one can shrug off something but not salvage themself from it for good, i'll rephrase so it be clearer May 4, 2018 at 11:27

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