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This question was born from the discussion in comments under this answer.

Чё is a slang/colloquial word, but does it mean что or чего? I believe that it's the equivalent of что, although it can't be substituted in all cases - and I used this in my answer to the linked question. However another user stated that I was wrong and that the correct meaning is чего.

So, which meaning is correct?

UPDATE: I was suggested that it can mean both, e.g.

Чё тебе надо?
Что тебе надо?
Чего тебе надо?

However in this case I would say that in the last version (чего тебе надо), чего is in itself is a colloquial from of что, hence can't be argued to be the meaning of чё.

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  • @v'-5o-1's73- (1) Please refrain from using profanities on this site. (2) Чего ты хочешь? is a colloquial version of что ты хочешь? - thus the meaning behind чё is actually что, and not чего, making your comment factually incorrect.
    – Aleks G
    Jul 14 '13 at 14:06
  • 3
    First, you'd better prove your point that "чего" is a colloquial. Second, it would be nice if you give a consistent definition of what colloquial is and what it is not. Until then I will keep my downvote. phraseology.academic.ru/3926/… Jul 15 '13 at 0:02
  • @v'-5o-1's73- I did requested the reason for the downvote, not for it to be rescinded - and I appreciate your reason. As for what "colloquial" means... In my view, it's any usage that's generally accepted yet not grammatically correct.
    – Aleks G
    Jul 15 '13 at 8:02
  • Neither "generally accepted" nor "in my view" can be used to define colloquial. Also you didn't prove it's grammatically incorrect. Thus you cannot reason about it being colloquial. Unless you think that your personal view matters a lot. If this is the way you write your programs, then I feel bad for your customers. Jul 15 '13 at 14:57
  • @v'-5o-1's73- I'm not sure why you feel inclined to make personal attacks - it doesn't score you any points, only makes you look desperate.
    – Aleks G
    Jul 15 '13 at 16:11
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There are some sentences in which чё cannot be substituted for чего, have a look:

Чё у тебя в карманах?

Чё там случилось?

In such sentences чё is the subject, which can be in the Genetive case only in negative sentences, like Ивана там не было. or as a part of a quantitative phrase, like много людей, три рубля, сколько зайцев, etc.

And this:

Не за что. (Cannot be *Не за чё.)

And Ни за что!

Also, there are some sentences in which чего cannot be substituted for чё:

С чего будем прыгать, с моста или с причала? (Not *с чё)

С чего бы это? (Not *с чё)

От чего ты отталкивался? (Not *от чё)

Без чего не вытащишь и рыбку из пруда? (Not *без чё)

To sum it up, it looks like чё is a colloquial form of что.

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  • 5
    Your first two examples are plain wrong («Чего у тебя в карманах?»/«Чего там случилось?» are perfectly correct in informal spoken speech), so it actually lokks like чё is an even more colloquial substitute for чего when it works as a colloquial substitute of "что" but not in their other uses. I could not come up with any example where you can use "чё" but cannot use "чего".
    – Shady_arc
    Jan 30 '15 at 23:34
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    @Shady_arc, one example of a phrase that I cannot push myself saying with чего is «а на чё мы жить-то будем?». But I am not an expert in the colloquial syntax and may be wrong.
    – J-mster
    Feb 3 '15 at 18:30
  • @J-mster You cannot use "чего" either in "А на чё мы жить-то будем". Only "что" is possible here.
    – Shady_arc
    Feb 3 '15 at 18:32
  • @Shady_arc, do you mean that neither «чё» or «чего» cannot be used with «на»? Might be not. For me «чо» is quite ok in this context, but I have no independent evidence to support it.
    – J-mster
    Feb 3 '15 at 18:38
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    @J-mster Aaah! You meant that "На чё мы жить-то будем?" sounds OK to you? I should have really been more careful when reading.
    – Shady_arc
    Feb 3 '15 at 18:56
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чё is the result of the omission of the -ег- syllable in чего. This is called Elision in phonetics. So чё is just a shortened form of чего

[чево́] >> [чео́] >> [чо] (spelled as чё)

This same thing happens with сегодня becoming сёдня

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    In sentences like чё тебе надо? и это чё такое? word чё is clearly a substitute for что, because grammatically correct versions of these sentences are что тебе надо? and это что такое?.
    – Aleks G
    Jul 14 '13 at 21:02
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    @AleksG Чего as a pronoun is widely used instead of что. In your examples чё is a substitute for чего: Чего тебе надо? Это чего такое?. And I repeat чё and чего is the same word. Just like сегодня = сёдня. It is the result of the omission of the ег syllable.
    – smsrecv
    Jul 14 '13 at 21:31
  • You've got a typo in "Elision".
    – Andriy M
    Dec 27 '13 at 8:10
  • @AleksG Nothing about "Чё те надо" is grammatical. They'd be saying чего if anything
    – SAH
    Nov 18 '14 at 16:58
  • It can also mean "Что? Что ты сказал?" (What did you say?). So in this case "чё" is reduction from "что". Dec 17 '14 at 12:06
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Using genitive/partitive as a subject is a perfectly normal thing in a lot of languages: Czech language's co "what" in nominative stems from an ancient genitive case as well (from čьso). Even Proto-Indoeuropean's kwid suspiciously looks like an ablative form (~ partitive-like).

So, чё does stem from чего, but it can be thought of as a rightful variation of что in the modern language (with its own quirks).

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Чё (or чо) can be used instead of both что and чего (both as subject and object). But in Southern Russia and Ukraine что is mostly replaced by шо, чего is not replaced in Russian, but is чого in Ukrainian (pronounced not чиво, чево or чаво but choho).

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Это может быть как чего, так и что. В зависимости от контекста. Вариант "Чего тебе надо?" для меня, как носителя языка звучит как более вежливый вариант, а никак не разговорным. Оба грамматически корректные. Вообще сама по себе конструкция, что с чё или с полным вариантом звучит грубо и невежливо.

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