Does it mean yes, or does it mean no, or something else?

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    It means "no", or "essentially not". Like: что-то случилось? - да [в общем] нет... – Lev Levitsky Jan 26 '13 at 23:48
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    It is colloquial expression that means NO, sometimes "да" shows that speaker hesitated before answering – user1591 Apr 9 '13 at 5:54

13 Answers 13

up vote 61 down vote accepted

Russian 'да' and 'нет' do not mean what English 'yes' and 'no' mean. English is somehow unusual as for the meaning of its 'yes' and 'no', as compared to other languages. In this respect Russian is closer to Japanese, than to English.

Russian 'да' means "I agree with what you say, you are right", Russian 'нет' means "I disagree with what you say, you are wrong", while English 'yes' means "What you say reflects the actual state of things" and English 'no' means "What you say does not reflect the actual state of things." On the surface, there may seem to be no difference between the approaches of the two languages, but, actually, that is not so. In Russian, if I ask you, "Ты его не знаешь?" and you answer "Да." it means you do not know the person. But in English, if I ask you, "Don't you know him?" your "Yes" answer would mean you do know the person. Am I right? In Russian one can say "Да, я его не знаю," but in English one cannot say, "Yes, I don't know him," one has to say, "No, I don't know him." This means sometimes Russian 'да' is translated to English as 'yes', but sometimes, when it is the confirmation of a negation, as 'no.'

Besides, Russian 'да' has several meanings. As a particle, it is 'yes' (or 'no'). It can be a question paricle, meaning 'right?'

"Ключ в столе, да?" - "The key is in the table, right?"

Also, it can mean 'by the way'

"Да, ещё одна новость." — "By the way / Oh yes, (there's) another piece of news."

It can mean "really?, indeed?"

"Вы знаете, он женился? - Да? А я и не знал." — "You know he has got married? - Has he? [Really / Indeed?] I didn't know."

It can be used for emotional emphasis - "but, oh but; why; well"

"Да не может быть!" — "But it can't be true!"

There are many other uses of 'да', but the phrase which is the scope of our question, "да нет", uses this last meaning of 'да', so it can be translated as "well, no" or "but no", or as "well, yes" or "but yes", if the question, to which it is the answer, contains a negation.

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    Опять, очень хороший ответ! – chubbycantorset Jan 15 '13 at 7:19
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    I disagree with your first lines. Yes and no have the same meaning: confirm or deny a question/statement. The answer to negative questions doesn't change the meaning of "Yes/no", because that's just a language convention. However, "Yes/no" remain the same. Anyway, nice answer. :) – Alenanno Jan 15 '13 at 10:35
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    @Alenanno: in Russian, you would have this conversation: — Я не могу этого сделать. — Нет, можешь!. In English, it would be: "I can't do this". "Yes, you can"! – Quassnoi Jan 15 '13 at 21:10
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    @Quassnoi Ok, but does that change the meaning of "Yes" and "no"? No, it doesn't. Negative questions are answered differently in every language, it's not a peculiarity of Russian or "yes/no" words. The point is, when answering negative questions it works this way, and there I agree. But the basic meanings of "yes" and "no" in Russian are no different from the yes and no in other languages. In normal situations they work the same way. – Alenanno Jan 15 '13 at 21:15
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    @YellowSky What you're forgetting is that not all language are like English, so there isn't an English vs Russian case. You're using the Negative Questions situation to explain the difference in meaning of Yes in Russian and English, but that doesn't work, (1) because in that case it changes within the language too (negative vs positive Qs), and (2) The behavior for negative Qs changes in some other languages too, but the yes and no still mean the same in all the other instances. [continued] – Alenanno Jan 15 '13 at 21:59

"Well, no". "Да" here is just an interjection.

  • Please refrain from posting answers that repeat information present in other answers already. – Aleks G May 21 '13 at 7:39
  • @AleksG, if you refer to answer starting with "As far as peculiarities" (the only one containing word "interjection" on this page), do note that it is so long winded, that I, personally, didn't notice it mentioned such thing at all until your comment. Neither will many other readers of this question. My answer also provides direct translation. Let votes do their job of selecting good one, shall we? – Oleg V. Volkov May 21 '13 at 12:04
  • I find this answer the most useful, since it gives a clear translation that would likely fit any context. There's no need in general explanations or referring to general rules here. – Alex_ander Jun 4 '15 at 9:09
  • The best answer. да is not "yes" but an unstressed particle emphasizing нет. – Avtokod Jun 5 '15 at 3:06
  • I (not having special education in languages) wonder if да here could be seen in its conjunction sense и (like in реки да озёра), and from there - as conjunction а, so the phrase then can be read as just а [вот] нет. – Outtruder Jul 10 '15 at 7:52

It means "No". There is also phrase "Да нет, наверное". That means "I guess no". But this phrase is used in only speacial situations. For example, if one person suggests another to go to the shop with him, the first person is not sure if he wants to go or not. But if he finally tells "Да нет", he means that he won't go. And almost always "Да нет" is continued with "Не" and a verb like "Да нет, не хочу".

  • What is the possible and correct answer to 'не хочешь подумать еще раз?' then? – Manjusri Jan 15 '13 at 19:44
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    While the answer is not incorrect, “Believe me, I’m from Russia” is not authoritative. You could as well said “Believe me, I saw it written on the fence”. Try to be more neutral and professional with your answer. – theUg Jan 16 '13 at 1:40

It means "no". Particle "да", besides its main affirmative meaning, has many others. In this case, "да" is an emphatic particle, similar to "but" or "nay".

Да is also a union, meaninng "yes" or "but". In this case the phrase translates as "But no".

да has emphasizing function in this context. Compare:

Да пошёл ты!    
Да не надо мне здесь заливать!
Да как сказать...
Да ну его к чёрту!
Да не может быть!
Да как ты посмел?!
Да на хрена он тебе сдался?
Да что с тобой такое происходит в последнее время? Ходишь, как сам не свой.
Да много ли мне надо?

In all these cases you can throw out да, because it is used to increase the importance of what you are saying. There are a few nuances where да нет is appropriate (like others have mentioned above):

  • Да нет, всё как раз наоборот - Quite the opposite
  • Ты уверен, что сможешь это сделать? - Да нет. Не очень то. - Well, no

It means 'yes, but --', or 'actually no/not', or 'I can see your point and accept it, but the real things differ entirely from what you said'.

Like in any conversational strategy, the meaning is defined by context, intentions, implicit/tacit knowledge, etc.

I guess "yes" and "no" in Russian and English are quite similar. It depends, however, on what deepness of language one wants to master. If someone wants to ask "Do you want coffee?" and one answers "да" for yes or "нет" for no, there is no difference. However, in Russian "да" in some cases acts as a conjunction meaning "and", e.g. "Иван-да-Марья" (literally "Ivan and Mary") is a name of a plant. Nowadays, "да" is used as a conjunction only in a small number of cases, mainly in expressions like "да нет" (a weaker or less-sure "no") or "да нет, наверное" (a even weaker form, where the person is not sure whether he agrees or disagrees, but slightly more disagrees) and in proverbs like "мал да удал" (small but clever).

The answer "да" to "Ты его не знаешь?" is not very clear for Russians too, but is grammatically and stylistically possible. Some people will ask '"да" what?' to know for sure what one means - "yes, you know him" or "no, I don't know him"?

this is a polite way to say no. that's it.

  • Странно, у вас много очков на стеке, вы должны быть в курсе, что подобный ответ с большой вероятностью будет заминусован или закрыт. – shabunc Jan 26 '13 at 18:45
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    ничего, переживу как-нибудь. – Alexandre Jan 27 '13 at 4:15

As far as the peculiarities of colloquiallisms in Russian are concerned as well as, quite typically so, in English or other languages, more often than not they do not always appear to be going along the lines of logic or at least are likely to be viewed as such, pretty much confusing, as it were, by a non-native speaker. In the aforementioned phrase the "да" ingredient is used, in a nutshell, to express an emphatic "no" being used as a means to put an additional stress to the negative response rather than add to some cognitive ambiguity which one can possibly overcome with practice and experience. What's more, when attempting to deconstruct a spoken language, there's no way to treat any particle of it as redundant, since every single speck of it comes into existence in the course of natural process. I wonder if we can consider this very instance an interjection. To illustrate this with an example, here's a quote from L.Tolstoy's Kreutzer Sonata: — Ах, что вы! Да нет. Нет, позвольте, — в один голос заговорили мы все трое. Даже приказчик издал какой-то неодобрительный звук. Another example shows that it can serve a certain emotionally charged purpose, somewhat similar to "хотел, да не успел!". Sometimes the exclamation mark may read quite apt for that matter.

As a native English speaker, I always thought it meant "of course, not". This makes sense in most contexts as mentioned above. As well as in my practical experience.

  • Welcome to Russian Language and Usage! Your answer is too subjective, I'd suggest you that you include references to support your point of view. – Olga Apr 16 '13 at 6:38
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    As a simple member of this community and a native Russian speaker, I'd wish to point out that in quite many contexts "да нет" means only a weak negation, and the translation "of course not" is therefore incorrect. – Olga Apr 16 '13 at 6:40
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    Being a native Russian speaker with over 20 years of living in English-speaking countries, I can tell you for certain that "да нет" in most cases means "not really", indicating hesitation or uncertainty. – Aleks G Apr 16 '13 at 15:46
  • Thanks, Olga, I agree about your subjectivity comment. For what it's worth the following sites were all pretty useless in translating this phrase, except for Multitran.ru: Promt - online-translator.com, Bing - bing.com/translator, Abbyy Lingvo - lingvo-online.ru, Google - translate.google.com, Yandex - translate.yandex.ru, Multitran - multitran.ru – Mike Lipscomb Apr 25 '13 at 6:57
  • sometimes in means exactly what Mike Lipscomb mentioned – el Dude Jun 14 '15 at 12:56

I heard this from my Russian friend and I think "да нет" means I guess not because I ask her a question. "Это твой первый раз, чтобы иметь филиппинских друга?"

Just surplus info.

‘Genuine’ Russian ‘yes’ spells and is pronounced да.
As for да in your question, which is many times described in previous answers, in oral speech there are variants of this word which hardly can be heard (interpreted by ear) as ‘yes’-да pronunciational variant. It can be pronounced with a final vowel varying around and resembling something like ы/а/schwa/and-their-shortened-varaints. (A form “ды нет” can be found on the Internet.) Some more info is in Andrey Chernyakhovskiy’s comment below.
The phrase in question is really oral and that Russian да нет does not tend to sound like English *yes no or *yeah no.

  • 1
    I should add that in the extreme the pronunciation of such a 'да' may degenerate to [dˀ]: 'да нет' [dˀnʲet]. On the contrary, an affirmative 'да' is always stressed and articulated clearly. – ach Jun 8 '15 at 10:16

protected by Artemix Jul 10 '15 at 7:20

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