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Она его не упрекала, потому что знала, что сложись все наоборот, если бы её парень упал, а она бы продолжала идти, она бы тоже не остановилась.

I assume that "наоборот" cannot be replaced with "напротив" here, while in the following context, they seem to be interchangeable, even if "напротив" is a better choice. I wonder when I should choose one over the other.

– Причащать? Нет, душа моя. Совершенно лишнее.

– Почему? Я, напротив/наоборот, нахожу, что для ребёнка необходимо.

  • 1
    напротив is on the other hand, alternatively and not differently, наоборот (on the other hand - the pun is intended) can be both – Баян Купи-ка Oct 31 '18 at 7:42
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In the first example, adverb наоборот is a modifier, or, as Russian grammar usually calls it, circumstance of manner of action (обстоятельство образа действия): it is part of the syntactic structure of the sentence, we can put a question to it: сложись как?наоборот.

In the second example, adverb наоборот/напротив is an introductory word (answers no question, is not part of the syntactic structure of the sentence).

Here's the difference. As introductory words, наоборот and напротив are interchangeable. As modifiers, they aren't. Note that unlike наоборот, напротив may also be a preposition.

  • Good, though it's better to call the first example as an adverb.--наречие , вводное слово --parenthesis – V.V. Oct 31 '18 at 18:28
  • Yeah, "parenthesis" is the correct term. However, with "adverb" I don't agree. We have adverbs in both cases. The distinction here is not in parts of speech, but in parts of the sentence. – ach Oct 31 '18 at 21:25
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You perfectly feel that «наоборот» cannot be replaced with «напротив» in this particular case. Or, I would say, it can be, but it will be slightly unusual for native speakers.

«напротив» is more often used when you are talking about someone’s own opinion, while «наоборот» can be used when you are talking about things/paths/outcomes/results in general.

Also, note the word «иначе», which fits most of the cases:

  • Я думаю иначе: … («Я, иначе, думаю/нахожу» feels like old/bookish style)
  • Он считает иначе, что…
  • Сложись всё иначе…
  • Если бы всё сложилось иначе…

«наоборот» and «напротив» are more suitable when there are two completely different (polar) choiсes or outcomes, while «иначе» can be used when multiple choiсes/outcomes take into account.

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It seems to me that the difference between this 2 words is in roots of the words. «наоборот» («обратная сторона чего либо») has the same root as «оборот», this describes that you have different opinion, over point of view . «Напротив» has the same root as «против» («против кого либо»), so it describes that speaker are against somebody, in opposition.

So, if you say:

Почему? Я, напротив, нахожу, что для ребёнка необходимо.

You focus on the fact that you are against this person

And if you say:

Почему? Я, наоборот, нахожу, что для ребёнка необходимо.

You focus on the fact that you are have a completely different opinion

So then you don't have a person to against with, you can't use «напротив»:

Она его не упрекала, потому что знала, что сложись все наоборот, если бы её парень упал, а она бы продолжала идти, она бы тоже не остановилась.

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