I know they can all be translated as something, and I know that что-то differs from что-нибудь in that it refers to something concrete, but not mentioned (whereas the former refers to anything at all) - but that's all I know.

2 Answers 2


что-то would be normally used when the speaker has no knowledge of what the object is, e.g.:

кажется, я что-то вижу - I think I see something
что-то не так - something is not right

что-нибудь would be used to name one unknown item that belongs to a category/set:

дай мне что-нибудь [выпить] - give me something [to drink] - from a set of drinks

что-нибудь also replaces что-то in questions:

- Ты что-нибудь видишь? - Do you see anything?
- Да, что-то вижу - Yes, I see something

кое-что is generally synonymous to что-то, but can be used to express eagerness on the part of the speaker:

- У меня кое-что для тебя есть! - I have something for you!

нечто is a deprecated form of что-то, but now has an additional meaning of surprise/excitement, in this meaning it can be translated as thing:

- Это нечто удивительное! - This is [something] wonderful! / This is a wonderful thing!

- Он просто нечто - He's just so cool/great (colloquial)
  • 7
    Usually, 'кое-что' implies that: (1) the speaker knows certainly for what it stands (usage of 'что-то' may mean that the speaker is uncertain); (2) the speaker is withholding this information. For example: 'Приходи к нему в гости, у него будет кое-что вкусное!' - 'Come visit him, there will be something delicious! [I know what it is, but won't tell]'. 'Приходи к нему в гости, у него будет что-то вкусное!' - 'Come visit him, there will be something delicious! [He said so, I don't know the particulars]'.
    – ach
    Commented Jun 15, 2014 at 13:53

Что-то = simply "something"

I spotted something.

Нечто = something in bold. Something surprising, unexpected, stunning.

I spotted something.

Кое-что = something I know what but will not say.

I spotted something, but this is secret.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.