Can someone, somehow please explain what the differences are between the suffixes -то and -нибудь? They tend to decorate words like как, кто, где, что, когда́ as in

как-то, как-нибудь (somehow)
кто-то, кто́-нибудь (someone, somebody)
где-то, где-нибудь (somewhere, someplace)
куда́-то, куда́-нибудь (somewhere)
что-то, что-нибудь (something)
когда́-то (sometime in the past?)
когда́-нибудь (some time in the future?)

4 Answers 4


I'm not a linguist or a teacher, but this is how I understand it:

как-то is somehow, как-нибудь is also somehow, but it also can mean anyhow, in any way.

So, in the similar manner:

кто-то = someone, кто́-нибудь = anyone or whoever

где-то = somewhere, где-нибудь = somewhere, but not important where, someplace or wherever

куда́-то = somewhere, куда́-нибудь = anywhere

что-то = something, что-нибудь = anything

когда́-то = sometime, когда́-нибудь = some not specific (anytime) time


That's a really complicated question if you want every single of these discussed with examples

Long story short, -нибудь refers to a hypothetical object: you have an idea that something might fit your description, but maybe such object does not exist at all. If it exists, it does not quite matter, which one. Кто-нибудь and что-нибудь may also refer to a choice from a set of known objects when it does not matter which one is chosen.

-то refers to a real but unidentified object. It is a certain object, but you do not know what it is.

This makes them not interchangeable in some contexts.


In questions, assumptions and suggestions about the past it is OK to use кто-нибудь and что-нибудь. In statements, you cannot use them in the past. After all, if you are sure the event happened, then its participants are real—even if you do not know them:

  • Question: Кто-нибудь из вас раньше здесь был?
  • Assumption: Если бы кто-нибудь тут был, он бы тебя увидел. = If anyone were here, they would see you.
  • Assumption: Тебя мог кто-нибудь увидеть.= Someone might have seen you (кто-то is also possible)
  • Statement: Тут кто-то был. = Someone was here.
  • Statement: Начальник что-то тебе принёс. = The boss brought something for you.


In the future "кто-нибудь" is used more freely that "кто-то", because most "something/someone" sentences about future are suggestions, anyway:

  • Кто-нибудь всё узнает и расскажет остальным. = Someone will find out everything and will tell the others.

"Some time"

"Когда" is time-related by itself, so its suffixed versions are quite different in usage.

  • когда-то is typically used in the past to refer to some distant times in the past, "once".

  • когда-нибудь is either used for the past ("ever") or for indefinite future ("some day"). If you are absolutely sure an event is bounf to happen, you can use "когда-то", too:

    • Он точно когда-то/когда-нибудь попадётся. = He is sure to get caught some day.

There exist a few additional meanings for a few of them:

  • как-нибудь may be used colloquially to refer to "someday, when you have time" etc.—for example, when inviting someone to hang out with you.

  • где-то is often used colloquially as "about, approximately", even though such usage is not acceptable for formal writing.

  • +1 but not sure about когда-нибудь for the past.
    – jwalker
    Apr 26, 2015 at 23:14
  • @jwalker I am not sure about the specifics either. I'd like to have more examples but cannot think of those different from the ones I have. I definitely need more assumption-like sentences, since these seem to be the most shaky topic (I asked a few friends, and our opinions sometimes differed).
    – Shady_arc
    Apr 27, 2015 at 0:01
  • It is quite possible to use когда-нибудь for the past in the sense of "ever". Ex.: Tы когда-нибудь там был? Have you ever been there?
    – Серж
    May 1, 2015 at 14:15
  • @Серж That's exactly what I wrote.
    – Shady_arc
    May 1, 2015 at 16:08
  • Yes, I know! But jwalker said that he wasn´t sure about когда-нибудь for the past.
    – Серж
    May 2, 2015 at 9:27

The way I used to describe the difference to an English speak is to draw a parallel with prefixes some- and any-, specifically:

кто-то / кто́-нибудь
somebody / anybody

где-то / где-нибудь
somewhere / anywhere

что-то / что-нибудь
something / anything

It's slightly different with как-то / как-нибудь, and когда-нибдь / когда-то but the meaning stays the same:

Он как-то это сделал
He did it somehow

Как-нибудь сделаем
We'll do it somehow

You correctly identified that -то would normally be used with passed actions and -нибудь with the future ones. In English this would also alter the meaning of the same -how word.


Russian "-нибудь" is like English "-ever".

кто-нибудь - whoever, где-нибудь - wherever, когда-нибудь - whenever etc.

The word "кто-нибудь" is derived from "кто ни будь" i.e. "кто (бы) ни был" - which means "whoever (was)". The others have similar origin and meaning.

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