Хоть это приказ, хоть нет, а люди не настолько глупы, чтобы отправиться туда.

In the case of "Интересно, (а) зачем ...", for instance, it is easy to interpret the optional "а" as "but". However, I occasionally come across an instance like this where the first word/phrase is followed by the apparently optional "а" that does not seem to translate well into English.

Another similar example is "Ну, а ...".

Whether to include "а" or not -- I wonder if it comes down to stylistic preference?

Хоть это приказ, хоть нет, люди не настолько глупы, чтобы отправиться туда.

4 Answers 4


a in this sentence can be dispensed with. I believe it's added almost kind of subconsciously to contrast the preceding negation хоть нет, but logically it's not required. It can be replaced with но which is also optional. These may be regarded as flourishes, make the speech a bit less stiff and dry, add a tad of passion.

In the expression ну, а... the a is absolutely required because it marks contradiction or alternative to someone else's statement. In this case it's ну which is logically dispensable.

  • Regarding the "хоть ..., но ..." combination, can I say something like this with an optional "но": "Хоть ты и тупица, но голова на плечах у тебя точно есть!"? Commented Dec 16, 2018 at 13:15
  • @Con-gras-tue-les-chiens absolutely Commented Dec 16, 2018 at 13:20
  • Does the same go for "Пусть ты и тупица, но голова на плечах у тебя точно есть!"? Commented Dec 16, 2018 at 13:24
  • @Con-gras-tue-les-chiens yes, however subjectively with пусть incidence of но is fairly lower Commented Dec 16, 2018 at 13:49
  • 1
    @Con-gras-tue-les-chiens i believe a is more common as a counterpart of пусть perhaps because the latter semantically doesn't invite full fledged contrast fashioned with но, after all originally it's not a token of reservation or concession like хоть but that of wish and inspiration Commented Dec 16, 2018 at 16:40

"A" in the beginning of a sentence or an independent clause (like in your question) is used to introduce shift of thought to another thing.

In your example you first express the thought that it doesn't matter if it is order or not. Then you move on and say people won't go. These two clauses a actually independent, thus you insert "а" to soften the transition.

Mind that in pure conditional sentence "а" doesn't fit:

Если даже это приказ, люди не настолько глупы...


Honestly, the best way to deal with "а" in a crude way, is to think of it as meaning —"and here's another bit of information, and as for this, as for this next thing ..."

Ты умеешь плавать, а я нет.

You know how to swim and I don't. = (and as for me, and regarding this other piece of information, here is the reality.

Хоть это приказ, хоть нет, а люди не настолько глупы, чтобы отправиться туда.

Whether it's and order or not, people are not so stupid as to head there. = (and as for the people, here's some extra info about the people ...)

Интересно, (а) зачем —

That's interesting (but as for the why of it, here's something more I will ask you about, ... why ...

"а"—started it's life in he Russian language as a sound, and then became a question marker, and finally was used to mark contrast. ( see here for origins— https://etymological.academic.ru)

At its core "а" is just a sound that marks additional information—here's something more in relation to what has been said, here's another question in relation to what we were talking about.


It also similar to but here.

Хоть это приказ, хоть нет, а люди не глупы. - Regardless if it is an order or not, but the people are not silly.

Both а and but can be omitted without influencing the meaning.

  • this but in the English sentence is not optional but downright redundant and so not only can but should be dropped Commented Dec 16, 2018 at 12:27

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