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Some time ago I watched the excellent Russian movie "The Horde" with English subtitles and got intrigued by a few expressions from there, with one of them being "только и всего." The movie is on Youtube in full, and here is the link that brings you to the scene with that expression: Link.

I see in Google that this is a very common idiomatic expression.

From the subtitles and from the research done by me I learned that the meaning of that expression is "nothing more than just this," but I cannot understand the literal logic of the expression. To me, it sounds as nonsensical as "only and everything."

First of all, I got confused as to what the conjunction "и" is doing here. I do not understand what it logically connects. In Google, I found exactly zero results with the phrase "сделай только и это" and 182 results with the same phrase but without the conjunction "и" in it.

Second, I do not understand the word "всего" here. It might be the genitive case of "everything" like in "он устал от всегo." It might be an adverb meaning "in total" like in "всего она перевела три книги." It might be a particle meaning "only" like in "у меня всего три рубля." There might be other possibilities.

Finally, I do not see how all these three words make sense together. At some point I thought that the literal meaning might be "just and only," where "всего" is interpreted as a particle meaning "only" and where the conjunction "и" is a means of connecting two synonyms, "just" and "only." However, a problem with this version is that this idiom is sometimes used with the conjunction "и" placed at the end like in the following quote from Turgenev: "Притворяется, что всё возится с Колей, а только всего и делает, что говорит о нем с умными людьми." Another problem is that I was unable to find any example with the reversed word order, "всего и только," which suggests that the word order in important.

I thought that the idiom might be a shortened version of a longer idiom, but was unable to find any.

My question is this: What is the actual precise logic of "только и всего" from the literal standpoint? I am curious how these three words logically make sense together or made sense together when the idiom came into existence.

  • "only and everything" - you'd be closer if you'd think of it as "just that much"(or many). "adverb meaning "in total"" - this one probably fits the best... – tum_ Jun 15 at 22:46
  • I am not sure , but it seems to me that "и" in "только и всего?" serves the same function as "and" in "and that's what I call a good X" - connecting the phrase to the enclosing context. – Ben Usman Jun 16 at 19:41
  • @BenUsman hmm, it is always hard to draw direct analogies between Russsian and English on such a low level.. The function of "и" here is the same as in such constructs as "только и знает/думает/видит/мечтает/...". I would call it усилительная частицв but mind you I'm not a professional linguist. – tum_ Jun 16 at 22:59
  • @tum_ : Apparently I solved this. I did some additional research and found some pieces of evidence in the old Russian literature. I posted an answer with my findings. – Mitsuko Jun 17 at 0:18
  • I think the closest similar expression in English would be "and that's it". Meaning only that much. – RadioLog Aug 2 at 9:08
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[только и всего] has synonim (100% equivalent) [и всего-то] which is short version of [и всего только].

[и] is used to finalise enumeration.
[Один, два и три] = [One, two and three].

By saying [и всего] it is meant that [всего] is the final part of enumeration and there is nothing after that to be added.

[и всего только] = [that, what was presented till now is everything and there will be nothing else]

This phrase is used to express suprised feelings that I do understand that this is everything, but I am really surpriced that this is really everything and nothing else is to be expected here.


[только и всего] or [и всего-то] they are just the first part of the whole standard phrase.

[Только и всего?! А разговоров-то было...!]
[И всего-то?! А разговоров-то было...!]

For example, when to use this phrase.

1) Your friend was telling you about some new restaraut which is according to his words was just something fantastic. But when you really arrive at that restaraut you understand that is more like a simple caffe for 5 tables and there is nothging super-puper outstanding there. And you might say suprised and dissappointed: [Только и всего?! А разговоров-то было...!]

2) You are Go player. And you are suppose to play against the best player of Sapporo. You have such a fear of that Sapporo champion that you can not sleep in the night before the match. When the match really happend and you won, you are suprisinly say [И всего-то?! А разговоров-то было...!] By hese words you mean [is that all you can do?! Really?! is that all your 100% of power?!]

There is a very famous picture in Russian internet culture, that a woman is surprised about man's penis size. Other girls was saing so many words about it, but when she finally saw his penis with her own eyes she see that there is a huge difference between what everybody say and what really is.

enter image description here

In this case, she also can say [И всего-то?! А разговоров-то было...!]

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    [и всего-то] which is short version of [и всего только] — really unsure about that – Nikolay Ershov Jun 15 at 12:54
  • Not sure why you’ve been downvoted cause you are actually right. – shabunc Jun 15 at 15:21
  • Thanks a lot, but I am still confused, because "-то" and "только" are very different words. The first of them is just used for emphasis, whilst the second one has a distinct meaning ("only"). I understand that the expression "только и всего" may be synonymous to "и всего-то," but my question is not about the meaning of the expression as a whole, but rather about the grammatical logic of the expression. – Mitsuko Jun 16 at 20:55
  • @Mitsuko "The first of them is just used for emphasis, whilst the second one has a distinct meaning ("only")." - that's an oversimplification. You should read on только in some good Russian Толковый словарь. Even google gives 5 meanings, where 5. частица После местоимений, наречий, союзов и нек-рых других слов употр. для усиления выразительности. "Зачем т. я сказал!" – tum_ Jun 16 at 23:10
  • @Mitsuko Your problem is that you said to yourself that there is only [grammatical logic of the expression] in Russian language. But there is also poetic logic too. [Поел я] vs [Я поел]. There is no grammatically logical difference, but there is poetic difference, which is used to express details of meanings. By moving [только] before [и всего] you create poetic stress to [и всего] instead of poetic stress to [только] in [и всего-то]. [только и всего] = about all [и всего-то] is about only. – Tchibi-kun Jun 16 at 23:33
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I did some additional research and found very interesting pieces of evidence in the old Russian literature:

Только и всего, чемъ могъ пособствовать, что наполнилъ великое множество бочекъ хлѣбомъ ... (From a book of 1763)

Маленько любилъ выпить, вотъ только и всего, что за нимъ водилось. (From a book of 1862)

The first of the two sentences above is the earliest usage of this expression in books indexed by Google, and the common pattern in these old examples is that "всего" refers to a subordinate clause. This makes perfect sense and perfectly explains the grammatical role of "всего":

Только и всего, чем мог пособствовать. Literally: And just this is everything he could do.

Вот только и всего, что за ним водилось. Literally: And just this is everything he had.

To verify my interpretation that "только и всего, что" is a sentence with a missing verb (zero copula), I looked for and found examples in which a verb is explicitly used:

Вотъ теперь только и есть всего капиталу, што тридцать копеекъ. (From a book of 1868.)

Пожитковъ у него только и есть всего, что чемоданчикъ, да еще гитарный ящикъ. (From a book of 1847.)

"Всего капиталу" in the example above sounds very similar to "чашка чаю" and "тарелка супу" and is thus apparently the partitive case, which was commonly used in the old era.

It looks like people later started omitting the subordinate clause after "только и всего" in cases where the subordinate clause was obvious from the context and thus did not need to be said. This could explain why the expression "только и всего" started being used as a complete sentence, like in the movie in which I heard this phrase. In the movie, the chief priest says "только и всего," obviously meaning "только и всего, что надо сделать."

My conclusion is simple: the grammatical logic of "только и всего" apparently is "только и есть всего, что/чем..." ("and just this is everything that ..."), with "всего" being the partitive case.

  • Your example in cotemporary Russian [И теперь капитал всего только тридцать копеек.] = [И теперь капитал всего-то тридцать копеек.] = [И теперь денег всего 650 руб. (~ $10 USD)] = [И сейчас денег всего лишь 10 баксов] = [И сейчас за душой лишь 10 баксов] = [И сейчас в кармане всего 10 баксов] = [И сейчас сбережений только 10 баксов]. All these variants have the same meaning, but "colors" are slightly different. – Tchibi-kun Jun 17 at 10:20
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Only and totally (as much) looks close to literal parsing. However, и not necessarily means 'and' here and might work as an emphasizing particle, as it often happens with Russian set expressions.

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