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Two Ways of Saying “For” in Russian: What’s The Difference Between Для And За? Posted by on Aug 3, 2017 in language

If you look up “for” in a Russian dictionary, you will see at least two options — для and за. I will list some of the most common scenarios where you would use either preposition so you can grasp the difference better.

Political poster

Poster reads “I love Russia; I support fair elections.”
Image from cea + on flickr.com

За + accusative

Support

За expresses someone’s support of a particular cause, candidate, or course of action.

  • За кого́ вы голосова́ли на после́дних вы́борах? (Who did you vote for in the last election?)
  • Пацифи́сты бо́рются за мир во всём ми́ре. (Pacifists fight for world peace.)

Exchange

За can also refer to any sort of exchange or specifically a monetary purchase.

  • Я купи́л э́ти брю́ки за 4 ты́сячи рубле́й. (I bought these trousers for 4,000 rubles.)

Substitution

A related usage is someone or something representing someone or something else or acting in their/its stead.

  • Во вре́мя мое́й боле́зни колле́ги выполня́ли мои́ обя́занности за меня́. (My co-workers fulfilled my duties for me while I was sick.)

Achievement

За is used to refer to someone’s achievement, especially is that person is being hono(u)red or celebrated for it.

  • Мари́я Кюри́ получи́ла но́белевскую пре́мию за откры́тие ра́дия и поло́ния. (Marie Curie received a Nobel Prize for discovering radium and polonium.)

Cause

A similar usage is when за refers to something that caused the current situation, often when someone is facing the consequences of their past actions.

  • За высо́кий рост его́ прозва́ли жира́фом. (He was nicknamed a giraffe for being so tall.)
  • Бизнесме́н был осуждён за неупла́ту нало́гов. (The businessman was convicted of tax evasion.)

Для + genitive

hand lotion

By Bff (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Purpose/Destination

Для refers to where or what for something is used or will be applied. In other words, it introduces the “target” or a certain thing or action.

  • У меня́ зако́нчился крем для рук. (I’m out of hand lotion.)
  • Жа́реная еда́ вредна́ для здоро́вья. (Fried food is bad for your health.)

Objective

This is a related sense — this describes the objective of a certain course of action.

  • Для повыше́ния у́ровня жи́зни населе́ния необходи́мы рефо́рмы. (Reforms are needed to raise the people’s standard of living.)

Recipient

Sometimes для is used to indicate the recipient of a physical object like a gift.

  • Э́ти цветы́ для тебя́. (These flowers are for you.)

Perspective

Для can also mean “in the case of someone” or “from someone’s point of view.”

  • Для поли́тиков поте́ря дове́рия избира́телей страшне́е пораже́ния. (For politicians, losing the voters’ trust is worse than defeat.)
  • Для меня́ здоро́вье важне́е бога́тства. (Health is more important to me than wealth.)

I hope this helps clear things up a bit!

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About the Author:Maria

Maria is a trained Russian translator. Originally hailing from Russia, she now lives in Western New York. She is excited to share her fascination with all things Russian on this blog. When she's not at her computer, she is dancing, out taking photographs or practicing German or Spanish at local language meetups. Maria's professional updates are available on her translation site and on Twitter at @intorussian.


Comments:

  1. Sara:

    Great post! But isn’t для used with genitive?

  2. Francesca:

    as shown in the examples, it is Для + genitive case

  3. Alan Dean:

    Many thanks – this is a confusing structure. Please show us where ‘На’ fits in when used as ‘for….’

    Thanks

    • Maria:

      @Alan Dean Thank you, Alan. I can’t think of a specific example of where на would correspond to “for” in all cases. I think it would mostly concern what’s called verbal governance (управление), or verbs requiring a certain preposition and case after themselves. For example, the English “hope for” will be translated as “надеяться на” (We are hoping for victory — Мы надеемся на победу). It’s not so much a matter of “for-на” correspondence as that of what follows the verb.
      If anyone can think of any other cases, feel free to jump in!

  4. Rosalie Brosilow:

    Please give more verbs and their variations.


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