I am struggling to see the distinction despite a native trying to explain it to me. Consider the following example:

– Игорь, Гарик, вы продолжаете работать на поиске вампирши. – Шеф будто от- несся к предложению серьезно. – Ей нужна кровь. Ее остановили в последний момент, сейчас она сходит с ума от голода и возбуждения. В любой миг жди новых жертв! Антон, а вы с Ольгой ищите мальчишку. Понятно. Снова – самое пустое и не важное задание.

Why not неважное? A similar thing seems to be happening with (не) совместимый, too.

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    one small thing - it seems to me that your question is about adjectives rather than adverbs - at least in sentence provided there are no adverbs. If it is the case - would you mind to edit the title?
    – shabunc
    May 3, 2019 at 21:04
  • @shabunc thanks for pointing out! May 3, 2019 at 21:07

2 Answers 2


You have no idea how many of Russians get worse grades in school because of confusion whether the prefix не should be written separately or together with an adjective. I've down-voted the previously provided answer because in my opinion answer should be self sufficient at least to some extent.

So main rules are basically the following (however, this is not a comprehensive list which would then be more nuanced than that):

  • Some adjectives are always written as a single word with the не prefix because without negation otherwise such adjective wouldn't exist, e.g. невзрачный (взрачный doesn't non-existent).
  • The не-adjective is written as a single world, if for an adjective with the не prefix there exists a synonym without не, then , e.g. in неженатый - холостой or небольшой - маленький.
  • The prefix не is written as separately, if the adjective used in the phrase where a contradistinction is implied, e.g. 'Это не большая кружка, а маленькая'- "The mug is not big but rather small".

That said, ironically in the sentence you've mentioned I'd rather use неважное - don't treat any text as an ultimately correct source.

  • in невзрачный and the like не- is a prefix, so strictly speaking the rule doesn't apply to it, a speaker simply needs to be able to distinguish between a particle and a prefix, and yeah, let me thank you in person May 3, 2019 at 21:13
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    @MrVocabulary here's what may be a case in point of inconsistency and dubiousness of the rule: shabunc wrote that when there's a synonym without не, then не is written jointly, then he suggested that неважное he'd write jointly, so what's the synonym which lacks the не in this case? May 3, 2019 at 21:22
  • @БаянКупи-ка нетехнологический? I can only reliably think of relational adjectives that would fit that. But at the same time it seems to me that небольшой is the neutral term for “small” in Russian… May 4, 2019 at 17:33
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    @MrVocabulary if you mean нетехнологический to be that synonym then it can't be because of having the не-, ok, i think i found it - второстепенный, but very often if you're eager to respect these rules you need to really dig deep inside your memory to retrieve anything which is tiresome, while the end result, whichever it is, doesn't affect the meaning, so what's the point?.. yes небольшой can have маленький as a synonym May 4, 2019 at 18:05
  • @БаянКупи-ка I agree completely – Polish is much more consistent here, splitting it up only if it's a) opposition (он большой, не маленький) or b) splitting it with another word (он не очень большой). It does seem a bit overcomplicated here ._. May 5, 2019 at 7:32

Не важное in particular needs to be written separately i think to avoid ambiguity because there's an adjective неважный meaning bad, poor.

Несовместимый i would write jointly.

There're rules to this and for adverbs, but they are so inconsistent with so many exceptions that i personally don't really bother to look them up an try to memorize. I learned firmly that if it's followed by a contrasting clause, particle не is written separately. That's about the only rule in this respect i care to follow.

  • thank you, anonymous downvoter, once in a while i try to be honest and it's not appreciated May 3, 2019 at 20:44
  • So here it would be that opposition I guess: “[It’s] a vacuous, and not an important task”. May 3, 2019 at 20:47
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    @MrVocabulary no, there's simple enumeration here, what's called однородные члены, contrasting clause starts with conjunctions но or а after a comma, e.g. не хороший, а плохой May 3, 2019 at 20:49
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    To write не separately, there must be another word between не and важное. Rozental rules do not contradict this (with contrast а/но we can write вода не (совсем) холодная, а чуть тёплая). So снова неважное задание should be written in a single word. And there is no ambiguity, it's clear which meaning is used: неважная погода (figurative) - неважное задание (literal). // cc: @MrVocabulary May 5, 2019 at 9:25
  • to me there's ambiguity, and it's only thanks to my familiarity with the meaning of the word in different contexts that i can guess the most probable meaning May 5, 2019 at 9:29

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