I'm not sure if I need a comma in the following phrases:

Не знаю что сказать.
Не знаю что вам сказать.

To me they seem to be similar to the phrases "Тут есть над чем подумать" "Тут есть что посмотреть" but the ruscorpora.ru search shows that many authors use commas.

1 Answer 1


"Не знаю, что вам сказать" is a case where the infinitive occupies the position of an object (a position usually taken by a noun phrase). In this case, you always should surround the sentence with commas, unless there are already other punctuation marks at its boundaries.

"Eсть над чем подумать" is an exception to this rule. It can be found here in paragraph 6, alongside with other exceptions.

I think that these sentences are declared to be exceptions because linguists still argue about their internal structure and cannot say if the embedded sentence "над чем подумать" occupies a position of a complement or if "подумать" and "есть" constitute one verbal group.

  • I agree that что вам сказать occupies the position of an object, but why do you call it "sentence". In many cases infinitive with dependent words is not a "sentence". Maybe, if we can define differences between these two types of infinitives we can resolve this problem. (Just a thought).
    – farfareast
    Commented Jan 5, 2013 at 22:39
  • Very interesting link to Rosenthal you sent. I think you meant for this case the item 6 of §114. Interesting is that it says не нахожу что сказать does not require comma - a very short distance to our не знаю что сказать. :-)
    – farfareast
    Commented Jan 5, 2013 at 22:43
  • Examples of infinitives which are not sentences here in "Инфинитив в роли второстепенных членов предложения" sub-chapter.
    – farfareast
    Commented Jan 5, 2013 at 22:51
  • OK, good points, I'm correcting my answer.
    – Olga
    Commented Jan 6, 2013 at 0:17
  • As for the infinitive not being a sentence, I wanted to say "clause", but realized that it was a linguistic term. Also, it is not clear how independent infinitives are (я умею вышивать vs. я купила нитки, чтобы вышивать). But it is not strictly related to the question and should better be discussed at linguistics.stackexchange.com
    – Olga
    Commented Jan 6, 2013 at 0:28

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