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I vaguely remember discussing the phrase "не за что!" with my Russian teacher and I believe that he said the phrase has different meanings when spoken in different ways.

I do remember that one meaning is basically "Hell no!" What is the correct intonation/pronunciation for the phrase when its delivered with this meaning?

Is there another meaning when the phrase is spoken with a different intonation/pronunciation? If so, what is it and how do I say it?

5 Answers 5

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"Не за что"

(phrase stress on the first word) is widely used as synonym phrase to "Пожалуйста" but with the meaning closer to "Not at all" rather than to "You are welcome".

compare with,

"Ни за что"

(phrase stress on the last word) means "Hell no!" or "The hell I will!".

Edit: As Andrey Chernyakhovskiy correctly added in his comment,

While these phrases are often used idiomatically, they themselves are not idioms.

Не за что literally means 'there is nothing [to ... for/at/behind]':

не за что благодарить means "there is nothing to thank for",

его не за что винить means "there's nothing to blame him for",

не за что глазу зацепиться means "there's nothing for the eye to be caught at",

не за что спрятаться means "there's nothing to hide oneself behind".

It is a particular case of a generic template не + preposition + кто/что in relevant case which is quite ubiquitous.

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  • +1 for excellent idiomatic equivalents
    – CocoPop
    Commented Aug 21, 2014 at 12:50
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    While these phrases are often used idiomatically, they themselves are not idioms. Не за что literally means 'there is nothing [to ... for/at/behind]': не за что благодарить 'there is nothing to thank for', его не за что винить 'there's nothing to blame him for', не за что глазу зацепиться 'there's nothing for the eye to be caught at', не за что спрятаться 'there's nothing to hide oneself behind'. It is a particular case of a generic template не + preposition + кто/что in relevant case which is quite ubiquitous.
    – ach
    Commented Aug 24, 2014 at 18:37
  • @AndreyChernyakhovskiy yes, nice comment. Will you post this information in your own answer or you would like me to include it to this answer? Commented Aug 24, 2014 at 22:27
  • Please include it in your answer.
    – ach
    Commented Aug 25, 2014 at 4:04
  • Thank you @AndreyChernyakhovskiy for your contribution, I added that. Commented Aug 25, 2014 at 4:15
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I do remember that one meaning is basically "Hell no!"

This phrase was ни за что́, not не́ за что, and is pronounced with accent on что, while glad to help phrase не́ за что [благодари́ть] is pronounced with accent on не.

Full form of ни за что́ would be ни за что́ на све́те, meaning no possible reward would make the speaker to agree to something.

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There is also an idiom "Ни за что ни про что". It means "for nothing", "without a reason".

For example "Человека избили ни за что ни про что!".

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You can say "Не за что" meaning "Это не стоит того". For example "благодарить эту страну не за что".

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  • @Jacob Your example is very good indeed, we all know what country did you have in mind :-)
    – Alex
    Commented Aug 28, 2014 at 20:54
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I am a native Russian speaker and it's hard to imagine other meaning of this phrase except this one :

"Not at all!"

Basically, this phase is used when somebody wants to say "Thank you" to you and you pronounce this phrase in order to show that this was very easy for you, as you would answer "You shouldn't thank me at all " but "thanks" is omitted.

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