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I'm awfully confused about the difference between the four nouns with the meaning 'difference'. Some example sentences showing which to use in which situation would greatly help my understanding.

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Разница - difference:

  • В чём разница между этим словарём и тем? (What's the difference between this dictionary and that one?)
  • Я не вижу никакой разницы между этими двумя книгами. (I don't see any difference between these two books.)

Разность - difference (the result of the subtraction of one number, quantity, etc, from another):

  • Найдите разность между 700 и 400. Ответ - 300. (Find the difference between 700 and 400. The answer is 300.)

So, personally, I associate разность with the mathematical operation. I never use разность the way I use разница. When it comes to the state or quality of being unlike, use разница.

Различие, отличие - distinction:

  • Есть очевидные различия (отличия) между двумя винодельными регионами. (There are obvious distinctions between the two wine-making areas).

  • Он проводит различие (NOT отличие in this set expression) между искусством и культурой. (He draws a distinction between art and
    culture.)

  • Я пока на провёл различия между удовольствием читать и писать. (I did not yet make a distinction between the pleasures of reading and of writing fiction.)

So, remember the expression проводить различия. Alternatively, you might say находить отличия. Again, it's a set expression:

  • Найдите пять отличий на картинках. (Spot the 5 differences in the pictures.)

Note that we wouldn't say найдите пять разниц. But I see that it's possible to say найдти пять различий, though I'd prefer найдите пять отличий. Perhaps, it's just a matter of preference here.

Also, remember the expression в отличие от (meaning unlike):

  • В отличие от тебя, я знаю, чего хочу. (Unlike you, I know what I want.)

Please note that some people have commented that "проводить различие/различия между" is not a natural Russian collocation. I beg to differ, and here is some evidence to support my argument: source 1 and source 2.

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    "Проводить различия (-е)" sounds really weird, though it can be found in some sources. "Находить различие", "искать отличия", "видеть разницу" are far better. But видеть отличия, for example, is also ok.
    – Elena
    Oct 23 '18 at 6:46
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    I don't think I've ever heard "Проводить различие" used. I'm a native speaker.
    – Misamoto
    Oct 23 '18 at 8:05
  • @Misamoto You must have heard this phrase. Perhaps, you just don't remember. I'm a native speaker too.
    – Enguroo
    Oct 23 '18 at 8:51
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    @Enguroo I mentioned the fact that you can come across it in some books. But still I can hardly remember hearing or saying that.
    – Elena
    Oct 23 '18 at 9:01
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    @MrVocabulary there is no difference. I think which phrase to use is just a matter of preference. Both are natural collocations.
    – Enguroo
    Nov 1 '18 at 7:07

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