I am looking for any equivalents/approximations to this Russian expression: не от хорошей жизни ("not from a good life"). This is an expression mostly used as a vague and/or cynical/humorous way to NOT specify what the real explanation/real reason for something is OR if the real explanation/real reason is even known.

For example:

"She left her husband ____________ [not from a good life]."
Or, "he began drinking ____________ [not from a good life]."

This doesn't specify WHAT the real reason is behind leaving or if the speaker even knows it. But it alludes to something in the situation being "off."

Any thoughts and ideas appreciated!


  • This isn't a punchy idiom, but to see if I understand, does "only because she had no better alternative" capture the meaning in English?
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented May 8, 2017 at 3:44
  • 1
    She was not in a good place can used similarly and can refer to both physical and mental “places”. Likewise, she was /having/going through/ a rough time
    – Jim
    Commented May 8, 2017 at 4:05
  • 1
    Sounds like because reasons might work, if a very informal register is acceptable.
    – 1006a
    Commented May 8, 2017 at 4:13
  • 2
    "He didn't start drinking for his health".
    – Dan Bron
    Commented May 8, 2017 at 10:37
  • 3
    If I've understood the original, I think @DanBron's suggestion is spot on—it retains the negative construction, ambiguous causation, and slight irony/sarcasm of the Russian phrase.
    – 1006a
    Commented May 8, 2017 at 21:43

1 Answer 1


This may help as an approximation: no rhyme or reason.

"She left her husband for no rhyme or reason."
"He began drinking for no rhyme or reason."


no rhyme or reason

if there is no rhyme or reason why something happens, there is no obvious explanation for it.

I don't know what makes her behave like that. There's no rhyme or reason to it.

Cambridge Idioms Dictionary, 2nd ed. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2006. Reproduced with permission.

  • 1
    Saying that there is no reason for the person's action seems quite different than saying that you don't know the reason or avoiding stating the reason. As I understand the idiom (and I could be wrong), it means that the person is under some pressure to do the thing they did, which explains why they did it—not that they were acting irrationally.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 20:15
  • 2
    Also, the phrase "no rhyme or reason" is normally used in English to describe a lack of systematic basis, not a single unexplained event. "There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the cat's meowing" suggests that the cat sometimes meows and sometimes doesn't, apparently randomly—not that the cat meowed once for a reason that wasn't obvious.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 20:27

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