In conversation, I just said:

Здесь не обошлось без помощи то ли специалистов, таких, как он, то ли еще кого-то.

Аs for who "не обошлось", I was referring to the entire medical personnel in a hospital. So in a sense, I had particular individuals, "они", in mind, but at the same time it is arguably not as distinct and specific as, for instance, "он/она".

What I had in mind was something like: "Here at this hospital, they (I was vaguely referring to the entire medical personnel) couldn't have managed/got by without some outside help from an expert in the field". I happened to use the impersonal construction without the subject "они (обошлись)".

I'm wondering if I should have placed the subject "они" with the verb "обойтись" instead of going for an impersonal construction.

  • You either focus on the event "Здесь не обошлось..." or on the subject(s) "Они нее обошлись..."
    – Alexander
    Dec 20, 2018 at 18:04
  • use of обходиться in sentences having distinct subject is usually confined to positive statements они обошлись без помощи (кого-то) and negative ones with negation of modal verbs мочь/удаваться/хотеть - они не могли/хотели обойтись без помощи (кого-то), direct negation of the verb is usually found in impersonal sentences, such sentence as я не обошёлся без его помощи sounds off albeit understandable Dec 20, 2018 at 18:42
  • the phrase "я не обошёлся без" yields as few as 104 results in Google, in present tense the incidence is higher, > 5000, in the positive past tense depending on the aspect +/- 10K, present > 28K, "не обошлось без" > 4 MIL Dec 20, 2018 at 18:42

2 Answers 2


Не обошлось без кого-либо means "someone had something to do with"

Росрыболовство уверенно заявило о том, что в этой истории не обошлось без активистов-экологов // Russian Federal Agency for Fishery stated with confidence that the ecology activists had something to do with this incident.

Я думаю, тут не обошлось без Дзержинского и его конторы. // I think Dzierzynski and "the firm" of his had something to do with that.

Не обошлось без чего-либо means "it has not been without something":

Не обошлось без потерь и в семье самого Генри Форда. // It has not been without losses in the family of Henry Ford himself either.

В Монце в тот день тоже не обошлось без аварий // That day had not been without car accidents in Monza as well.

If you wanted to say that the medical personnel could not make do without someone's help, you should have used было не обойтись:

Им было не обойтись без помощи специалиста, такого, как он, или ещё чьей-нибудь.

  • было не обойтись is ambiguous about the end result, whether they eventually were assisted to, it could well only mean the fact that they wouldn't manage without help Dec 20, 2018 at 20:52
  • @БаянКупи-ка: the OP has mentioned in a comment that "they couldn't have managed/got by without some outside help" is exactly what they were after
    – Quassnoi
    Dec 20, 2018 at 20:55
  • in his sentence and description the end result is known, they were assisted to, that's obvious from both his original wording of perfective не обошлось and the English hypothetical couldn't HAVE managed, but the meaning of было не обойтись based on grammar alone is that they wouldn't manage unless they were assisted to, but whether they actually were assisted to must only be inferred, it's not immediately obvious, for example if i say мне там было не проехать is it obvious that i didn't drive through there? it's likely, but not spelled out Dec 21, 2018 at 7:44
  • I see. What do you think about adding "бы": "Здесь не обошлось бы без ..."? Dec 21, 2018 at 15:19
  • @Con-gras-tue-les-chiens: this would have just put it into subjunctive mood: "the specialist would have had something to do with..."
    – Quassnoi
    Dec 21, 2018 at 17:06

If you want to specify "them" as actors with "обойтись" in past tense, you can use subjunctive mood:

Они бы не обошлись без помощи то ли специалистов, таких, как он, то ли еще кого-то.

Or you could use other active constructions, like прибегнуть к помощи

Они прибегнули к помощи то ли специалистов, таких, как он, то ли еще кого-то.

It seems that "обошлось" (in the past tense) tends to be impersonal.


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