Чтобы ты управляла лодкой? Еще чего! Ты еще не в силах справиться с ней в одиночку!

In conversation, I sometimes use an incomplete "чтобы" subordinate clause like this to express an element of surprise -- as an equivalent of "To think that ... !" or something along those lines.

Now I'm wondering how far it can go with its incompleteness. Is it common to drop even a verb, with the aid of an ellipsis? Is virtually any wording possible, as long as there is an ellipsis?

Я знал, что он честолюбец, но чтобы настолько...

All in all, how (else) do native speakers use these incomplete "чтобы" clauses?

  • A popular cliche is Чтоб я ... - then follows some verb, exclamation, etc (used as question). Another expression Чтоб я так жил is probably a meme already - but this is affirmation, not doubt, so it's another category.
    – alexsms
    Dec 18, 2018 at 6:39
  • «Прибежала бабушка, заохала, даже заплакала, смешно ругая меня: – Ах ты, пермяк, солёные уши! Чтоб тебя приподняло да шлёпнуло!» М.Горький
    – Elena
    Dec 18, 2018 at 17:13

3 Answers 3


Yes, in colloquial speech, almost everything can be dropped from the sentence (assuming there is a context that can fill in the meaning).

"Чтобы ты? Управляла лодкой? Еще чего!"

But you do have to use at least one word as a focal point to express the surprise ("настолько", "ты" etc.)


When used for cursing it can be shortened almost to nothing: "[Да] чтоб ты!" which is shortened form of "[Да] чтоб ты [сдох | света белого не видел | жил на одну зарплату | ...]!".

Some variants of the omitted sentence parts for your examples:

Чтобы ты управляла лодкой? Еще чего!

[You want me to agree] that you'll control the boat? No way!

[You want me to believe] that you'd controlled the boat? No way!

Я знал, что он честолюбец, но чтобы настолько...

I knew he was a status seeker, but [did not expect] that [he's] so [...].


All in all, how (else) do native speakers use these incomplete "чтобы" clauses?

Это он сделал. Чтобы мне под землю провалиться! = It is him who did it. I swear I am telling the truth. Literally: May I fall to below ground (if I am lying).

Почему еще не готово? Чтобы к завтра работу закончил! = Why is it not ready? Finish the work by tomorrow!

Не то чтобы он такой злодей внутри, он лишь цинично действует в своих интересах. = It is not that he is such a badass in his soul - he just cynically does what is in his interests.

Ну у него и дворец! Чтоб я так жил! = What a palace of his! I wish I had the same lifestyle.

Да чтоб тебя! = Damn you!

Чтобы всё у тебя было хорошо! = May you do well.

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