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I believe I understand the meaning of the expression чёрта с два, but I don't understand its origin or grammar:

  • Why is чёрта in the accusative/genitive case?
  • Why is два in the nominative case after с?
  • What are the "two" mentioned in the expression?
9

Russian has two similar constructs to express uncertainty about quantity:

  1. Swapping the numeral and the noun it modifies:

    У меня в кармане сто рублей // I have hundred rubles in my pocket

    У меня в кармане рублей сто // I have about hundred rubles in my pocket

  2. Adding the preposition с:

    Эти кирпичи весят тонну // These bricks weigh a metric ton

    Эти кирпичи весят с тонну // These bricks weigh a ton or so.

The first one is used when the quantity is measured in numerals, the second one when it's measured in units.

If you use both numerals and units, the two can be combined:

Она весит килограмм с пятьдесят // She weighs about 50 kg.

, which roughly means: "if we are about to compare her weight in kilograms to a number, the number is going to be 50 or so".

So the literal meaning of your phrase is "about two devils" or "two devils or so".

This set phrase is used similar to the English words "shit" or "hell" in phrases like "You can't do shit about it" or "The hell you're going to sell this house at this price". If you replace "shit" or "hell" with "about two devils", you'll get the Russian equivalents of those phrases.

The "two" here is just an arbitrary number, like in English "he won't give two hoots about that" and does not have any special meaning. It probably started off as a joke which then had got the traction and set its roots in the language.

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1

I believe I understand the meaning of the expression чёрта с два

[черта с два] = [not to get what you want] + [how dare you?]

Why is чёрта in the accusative/genitive case?

Because [черта с два] is just a first part of the full phrase which is [черта с два ты получишь, а не то, что хочешь]

For example,

- Can I have some beer?
- [черта с два ты получишь, а не пиво].
- [черта с два] you will get, but not some beer.

Real version:

- Can I have some beer?
- [Черта с два!]

In this case it is not just: No!
It is: [no!] + [How dare you just think of idea to have any beer?!]

So, it is not just [черт с два] which anyone can put in any case form as usual noun [черт].
It is so called fixed phrase.
That's why it is always genetive in combination with [с два].

Why is [два] in the nominative case after [с]?

Because of usage [с] + [number] when you mean [around].
[с два] = [примерно два] = [около двух] = [что-то типа двух] = [around 2] = [2 or something] = [~2]

[черта с два] = [два чёрта или около того] = [примерно два чёрта]

What are the "two" mentioned in the expression?

That is sarkasm.

Direct saying what you mean:

- Can I have a beer.
- No, you can't.

Sarkasm way of saying the same meaning as above:

- Can I have a beer.
- Yeah, sure! You even can have 2 beers, you bastard.

[черта с два] is kinda old phrase about 200-300 y.o. at least. But nowadays we have the same contemporary construction for this case.

Contemporary sarkasm way of saying the same meaning as above:

- Can I have a beer.
- Yeah, sure! You even can have 2 beers and one in the middle, you bastard.

The deep meaning of this sarkasm is to show the person in indirect way that idea itself of having what he wants is rediulos and silly. How dare you even think about it?!

Summary

- Can I have a beer?
- Instead of having a beer you will get a demon... no! — 2 demons or even more.

which short form is

- Can I have a beer?
- You'll get 2 demons or something.

and finally

- Can I have a beer?
- 2 damns or something.

I guess English word [damn] is just a shrinked [daemon], that why [2 черта] = [2 damns]

[Damn] in contemporary English means [curse].
Therefore

- Can I have a beer?
- Curse on you! Twise or so!!


PS. I'm new to SE and do not know what to do, but there is Duplicate of this quesiton 1 year ago

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  • Is the meaning of the vulgar хрена с два the same as чёрта с два? – oz1cz Jun 12 '19 at 18:22
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    @oz1cz Yes. To this pattern you can creativly put any word, witch means something bad and by this word you can soften or harden the power [чёрта с два] [хрена с два] [хера с два] [фига с два] and so on. – Tchibi-kun Jun 12 '19 at 21:44
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In "not so rough" russian one of the meanings of "чёрт" word is "nothing". So meaning of a phrase "Ты получишь чёрта с два" is "you will get about two nothings".

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  • "ни черта" means nothing, "чёрт" never means nothing – shabunc May 30 '19 at 14:43

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