5

Раз вы не Раиса, то нам не о чем разговаривать.

... then we have nothing to talk about.

To convey the idea of "nothing", I usually expect to see the combination of "ни", "не", and "что", as in "ни на что не годится". Why the omission of "ни"?

Or perhaps, is it more related to the 4th definition of "не"?

7

Had it been used with a noun, it would be разговор ни о чём, however in this case it's не. And again, it should just be memorized. Here are some relevant articles from wiktionary: ни о чём, не о чем

So, не о чем indicates that there's nothing to talk about, while ни о чём sort indicates that you are talking about nothing [else].

For instance, in this example it will be ни as well:

Будем думать только об экзамене, и больше ни о чём.

Or consider following pair:

Больше ни о чём я вам не расскажу, ни в чём не признаюсь". (literally - I will tell you about nothing, I will confess nothing).

and

Не о чем мне вам рассказывать, не в чем мне признаваться". (literally - I have nothing to tell you about, I have nothing to confess).

2
  • Wow, this has turned out to be more complicated than I'd expected! – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Jul 13 '18 at 13:59
  • 1
    @Alone-zee it's not about me, however I want to use this chance as an opportunity to notice - you are not accepting answers. Please, if you find some answer helpful and the most full one - care to mark is as an answer. It's not obligatory, however, it does help other users. – shabunc Jul 14 '18 at 0:15
3

Handling this a little differently: "не" is straightforward "no/not", but "ни" may indeed mean "nothing", like @shabunc rightly says, but also, depending on context, may mean "neither" or "nor" or sort of pointer to "anything" or "whatever".

So, "не то" is "not that [something which was expected/needed/etc.]".

But: "ни то, ни другое" is "neither this, nor that".

And: "чтобы [one word!] не делать" is "[in order] to do not", but "что бы [two words!] ни делать[, лишь бы не работать]" is "to do anything [but work]" or "whatever's one going to do [one's not going to do work]".

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