Could someone please explain how the expression жить можно is used and in what contexts? I heard someone say it in a movie, coming out of a store after buying lots of cool gadgets.


9 Answers 9


I know far more English than I do Russian (disclaimer;-) but I should have thought that a fairly literal translation was an accurate expression of the Russian meaning, and also good idiomatic English: "I can live with it". Happy to be corrected by those who understand Russian better than I do.

  • 2
    I believe you're right, from what I've seen.
    – CocoPop
    Commented Aug 15, 2014 at 3:41

Another meaning is that "This is less than I expected, but nevertheless it is still acceptable":

Устроился вчера на работу. Зарплата, конечно, небольшая, но жить можно. - I have found a job yesterday. The salary is not high, but it is acceptable."

Купил с рук компьютер. Новые игрушки на нем подтормаживают, но жить можно. - I bought a second-hand computer. New games are running slowly, but it is okay for me."

  • 7
    "It doesn't pay to much, but it'll do." "The games run slow, but it'll do." THANKS!
    – CocoPop
    Commented Aug 12, 2014 at 12:13
  • you got it, "it'll do" seems to me very exact. Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 0:49

This can be used with sarcasm.

Её муж содержит её детей от первого брака, и ещё она получает алименты от первого мужа. Жить можно!

  • Interesting usage! What would be the English equivalent? My ideas: Must be nice! (=mildly disapproving); Good for her! (=I admire her luck); Hey, you gotta eat! (=every little bit of money helps, regardless of where it came from); Not bad! (=she's smart! I wish I had a deal like that!)
    – CocoPop
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 12:59
  • 1
    @CocoPop Must be nice!, Not bad!
    – Anixx
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 13:14

It translates perfectly into British English as "Not too bad" or "Could be worse".


“жить можно!” when alone means "it's Okay". Basically it has two meanings:

  • The first used in a whole sentence as a part, e.g.

"Мой друг сказал мне, что даже имея семью, жить можно и в однокомнатной квартире". "My friend told me that even having a family it's possible to live in one bedroom apartment"

  • The second one is just verbal positive agreement signal for a situation faced, used alone, e.g.

"Что ты думаешь о том, что институт изменил правила экзаменов и теперь вместо двух устных экзаменов мы должны сдавать один письменный? - Жить можно! "What do you think about that the institute changed exam rules and now we have to sit one writing module instead of two speaking ones? - It's Okay!"

  • 2
    So in the first example, жить is used literally?
    – CocoPop
    Commented Aug 12, 2014 at 12:15
  • Во втором примере значит, что надо терпеть немного неудобства, но неважно?
    – CocoPop
    Commented Aug 12, 2014 at 12:47
  • 1
    @CocoPop certainly
    – Ivan Black
    Commented Aug 12, 2014 at 17:57
  • 4
    @IvanBlack: So it's like: We have to sit through one written module instead of two oral ones, but we'll live! (=It's not the end of the world! - there are worse things!)
    – CocoPop
    Commented Aug 12, 2014 at 18:14
  • 1
    correct, "it's not the end of the world - there are worse things!" thank you, that's +1 Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 0:46

In the particular scene of the movie "жить можно" was probably used in a [self-]ironic and a little boastful way, diminishing the overall coolness of all the gadgets bought.


I can help (Russian myself). The expression is usually used when you want to say that something is acceptable or it could be worse. It's used in colloquial speach only. I.e.:

— Как работа? Как зарплата?
— Жить можно! (means that the salary is not that high, but average)

— Много работы? (Do you have much work to do?)
— Да, но жить можно. (Yes, but I'll manage it.)

— Как жизнь? (How are you?)
— Ничего, жить можно. (Quite fine.)

Sometimes it is used ironically.

  • Great response. Could you please give me an example of it used with irony?
    – CocoPop
    Commented Nov 21, 2014 at 13:35

The meaning of "жить можно" is "tolerable" or "will have to do".

Могло быте и лучше, но жить можно.

Could have been better, but it will have to do.

  • 1
    "tolerable" is ok, but "will have to do" is not - it conveys lack of options or pessimism, while "жить можно" usually expresses optimism about the situation. "Could have been better, but it will have to do." is much better translated as "Могло быть и лучше, но придется довольствоваться тем что есть." Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 16:18
  • @IvanKoshelew: Good point! Note that there is (believe it or not) a difference between "it'll have to do" and "it'll do" - the latter is more "optimistic" to use your words. It is also used sarcastically/humorously when something extravagant, like a luxury car for example, is deemed "passable" as a mode of transportation.
    – CocoPop
    Commented Nov 21, 2014 at 13:34

All above answers are correct, but without directions to use it with English language and mentality.

To understand it deeper or imagine where you can use it it means - Liveable (liveable conditions).

you can see definitions here The Free Dictionary

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.