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I am not a native, but I came across these two sentences on a thread over at this thread on Linguistics.SE, and I had some kind of vague feeling the sentences did not mean exactly the same thing.

  • Огонь - плох
  • Огонь - плохо

Is there a difference, and if so what is it?

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1 Огонь плох (without a dash) is a combination of words, able to also stand as a sentence, which refers to the quality of fire, e.g. unstable, weak, producing little light etc

2 Огонь - плох (with a dash) is a sentence which may refer to adverse consequences of fire, it can be reworded as Огонь - он плох, it's bad as a destructive force

3 Огонь - плохо is a sentence which refers to the quality of a situation in which there's fire, it can be reworded as Огонь - это плохо and is unpacked as it's bad when there's fire

Abstract and general phenomena as well as predicate in impersonal sentences in Russian are expressed in neuter gender, that's why плохо doesn't refer to огонь but to the whole affair of its presence and/or activity

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  • Note: #1 & #2 stand all right as they are. #3 is really asking for a reworded version (Огонь - это плохо). I think only children not older than 3 use the original version. – Alexander Jun 1 '18 at 19:16

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