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They both mean "something" but I have seen somewhere that there is a subtle difference between their respective senses. Could someone give me a hint at the difference along with sentences?

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  • 1
    Just a side note. Russian typography normally doesn't use en-dash. Compound words need hyphens: что-то. En-dash looks weird here. Quotation marks go either like this «...» or like this „...“, never like this “...”, though most text typed on computers use "..." these days.
    – user248
    Oct 29, 2014 at 19:50
  • @n.m. Looks like en-dashes are added by the RussianSE engine itself.
    – Artemix
    Oct 30, 2014 at 14:45
  • @Artemix RLY? Can you point to other instances of this abomination? Oct 30, 2014 at 19:34
  • @n.m. not use of a specific sort of dash was an egregious mistake, but using a dash as a replacement for hyphen. Oct 30, 2014 at 19:38

3 Answers 3

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Roughly, the difference is like between "something" (more close to "что-то") and "anything" (more close to "что-нибудь").

While these words are indeed interchangeable in many context, you can say only

Что-то ударилось о бампер (Something hit the bumper)

but not

Что-нибудь ударилось о бампер (Anything hit the bumper)

By the way, the same is true about "кто-то" and "кто-нибудь", which can be translated like "somebody" and "anybody" respectively.

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When you are speaking about a person, a thing or a place that actually exists, but whose identity is not known to the speaker, use pronouns, adjectives and adverbs combined with the particle -то: кто-то, что-то, какой-то, чей-то, почему-то, где-то, куда-то, откуда-то...

Please, note that "когда-то" means "a long time ago".

Кто́-то дал мне э́тот каранда́ш, но не по́мню кто. Somebody gave me this pencil, but I don't remember who.

Вдруг отку́да-то пришёл Ва́ся. Suddenly Vasia came from somewhere.

When you are speaking about a person, a thing or a place that hasn't yet been chosen or identifies, use pronouns, adjectives and adverbs combined with the particle -нибудь: кто-нибудь, что-нибудь, какой-нибудь, чей-нибудь, где-нибудь, куда-нибудь...

Please, note that "когда-нибудь" means "some day in the future".

Я хочу́ что-нибудь почита́ть. I want to read something.

Кто́-нибу́дь зна́ет, где кни́га? Does anybody know where the book is?

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  • Ochen spasiba for your clarifications
    – Averroes
    Jul 10, 2014 at 10:56
  • You're welcome! "Большое спасибо". Jul 10, 2014 at 11:06
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"что-то" and "что-нибудь" have the same meaning. I'm Russian man and we speak these words like "something" and "somebody"

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