I am trying to read some basic Russian texts to strengthen my vocabulary and I came across the following sentence in one of them:

И, может быть, это и проблема...

I am yet to fully comprehend the intricacies of the Russian language, but I did struggle to translate this one properly. Apparently, the correct translation is:

And maybe this is the problem...

How does one get to this end result? I know I need to try and stop reading a sentence word by word in the hope it will make sense immediately, but there are a few things I do not understand regarding the aforementioned phrase:

  1. As far as I am aware может can mean May, or Can (as in "Can I", "May I") so where does this come in with может быть, and how does that end up meaning Maybe?

  2. In the phrase это и проблема... (this is the problem) why is и present? I thought that meant and?

  • 1
    "Может" — "may", "быть" — "be", "может быть" — "maybe". The "и" here is an emphatic particle, with no actual meaning, you can translate it by boldening "is": "this is a problem".
    – Joker_vD
    Commented Aug 21, 2018 at 9:33
  • Is it a whole phrase?
    – edo1
    Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 11:06
  • And possibly, precisely this is the problem
    – ゑ01
    Commented Sep 17, 2020 at 10:02

2 Answers 2


И, может быть, это и проблема...

The original sentence doesn't sound perfect Russian to me: it's even unclear, which of the two senses it was supposed to express:

1) And that might also be a problem,

2) And maybe the problem [we are trying to locate] is just in that.

That is because the second "и" can function (1) like ещё и (also, as well) or (2) simply emphasize the following word. Also, the first comma looks redundant: in case it was used in pair with the second one, to isolate the insert может быть, that does not work well because extracting the insert (a typical punctuation test) brings us to an internally strange sentence "И это и проблема". So the first "И" is rather a part of "И может быть".

  • The first variant is wrong.
    – Anixx
    Commented Sep 19, 2020 at 17:57

This depends on a context, but here it reflects the 'probability'. 'А, может быть, это и проблема." - 'something is probably a problem' - "что-то, вероятно, является проблемой [для кого-либо]".

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