I was attempting to translate a sentence about the weather and I was told that "minus" was not declined...in any case. I also heard, though I don't know, that this is also common in mathematics. (Ignoring the singular/plural distinction between the two languages)

At night, temperatures range between minus ten and zero degrees Celsius.

Но́чью температу́ра коле́блется ме́жду ми́нус/ми́нусами девятью́ и нулём гра́дусов.

Is there a particular reason I was told this (even an obvious one I am overlooking...)?


As a preposition (ме́жду), it seems to work with instrumental, and rarely, with genitive (wiktionary).


My confusion lies in why the nominative (maybe accusative) is used. I think after the preposition it should be instr. or gen., as alluded to in the PS.

Additionally, 'minuses' might seem logical at first, but then considering all the times when it doesn't follow someone's logic - there are many of them, e.g. for cardinal numbers:

1+ Nominative 
2-4 + Genitive singular 
5-20 + Genitive plural

Of course here I overlooked that the cardinal number is singular... But your explanation just doesn't address the case.

  • 1
    can you please clarify what exactly are you puzzled with - the the word минус is not declined in this sentence? Also, plural минусами is just wrong here.
    – shabunc
    Apr 15, 2021 at 19:47
  • 1
    Probably for the same reason you don't say "minuses ten" in English.
    – mustaccio
    Apr 15, 2021 at 19:52
  • 1
    any constructive reason for the downvote?
    – nate
    Apr 15, 2021 at 21:57
  • 2
    in general, i think, it's because this "минус девять" are semantically defined as one grammatical object, as one whole thing. This - position - of the temperature. And, for one integral object, one inflectional declination is sufficient. Apr 17, 2021 at 11:13
  • 1
    между (nom., pl.) (nom. sing.) (instr,, sing.) и (nom. pl.) (instr. sing.) // между (nom. pl.) (instr. sing.) и (instr. pl.) // seems 'punctuation' and 'minus' have similar behavior with compound numbers...
    – nate
    Apr 17, 2021 at 18:30

2 Answers 2


It's just how it is :) When talking about the number, -9, you just don't decline the word 'minus':

N. минус девять
A. минус девять
G. минус девяти
D. минус девяти
I. минус девятью
P. минус девяти

Thus, your sentence should say:

  • Но́чью температу́ра коле́блется ме́жду ми́нус девятью́ и нулём гра́дусов.

When using «минус» as a noun in its own right, it is correct to decline it:

  • Но́чью температу́ра коле́блется ме́жду ми́нусом и плю́сом.

  • У неё мно́го ми́нусов и плю́сов.

  • i have come to accept, 'it's just how it is' many times, and I'm fine with that. Guess i just was surprised preposition immediately before would not have precedence
    – nate
    Apr 15, 2021 at 22:50

I think it is similar to how we pronounce other punctuation when narrating. We will say "ударил мальчика дефис шута" for "ударил мальчика-шута", not "мальчика дефиса шута".

We will say "он пошёл за водкой", запятая, "колбасой", запятая, "сосисками", not он пошёл за водкой, запятой, колбасой, запятой, сосисками.

In other words, when narrating we pronounce punctuation characters in nominative.

  • I wouldn't have even thought of narration as a case...interesting. Still I imagine that this, too, falls under 'the way it is'. Curious if this 'class' of words belongs somewhere in a grammatical taxonomy. In my example it seems to function as an adjective, in yours... conjunction?
    – nate
    Apr 17, 2021 at 18:07
  • @nate in one dictionary I indeed have seen "minus" claimed to be a conjunction in "пять минус семь", but it did not say about usage with only one number except for temperature.
    – Anixx
    Apr 17, 2021 at 20:17
  • "We will say "ударил мальчика дефис шута" " - this isn't used really; "мальчика тире шута". ___________________ "Дефис — орфографический знак, он ставится внутри слова (всё-таки, во-первых), короткий, без пробелов. Тире — пунктуационный знак, ставится между словами" Nov 15, 2021 at 0:30

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