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“В” or “на” with Places and Events in Russian — Part I Posted by on Jan 25, 2017 in language, Nouns and their grammar

Phrases with prepositions to refer to a place or event are fairly frequent in all levels of Russian. At the same time, these structures are not quite regular, which can be frustrating even for experienced learners. Many cases are determined by convention more than logic, but we’ll try to group these expressions according to the scenarios they refer to.

Daily Activities With На

person's hands on a laptop

Image from Pixabay

A lot of what I would call day-to-day main activities is used with на (“on”). The form in the accusative case indicates a destination (“на работу”), and the prepositional case is used for location (“на работе”). This post will list the prepositional form, but remember to use the accusative form for going places.

Some examples of this usage include:

  • на работе: “at work”

На рабо́ту и с рабо́ты всегда́ пешко́м.
(I always walked to and from work.)
[И. Грекова. Перелом (1987)]

  • на учёбе: “in school” as used in US English; this refers to the process of studying rather than a specific educational institution

На часа́х ро́вно три, в э́то вре́мя лю́ди, как пра́вило, ли́бо на рабо́те, ли́бо на учёбе.
(It’s three o’clock; people are usually either at work or in school at that time.)
[Дарья Донцова. Микстура от косоглазия (2003)]

  • на службе: “serving” (military or public service)

Оте́ц был вое́нным и ча́сто су́тками пропада́л на слу́жбе.
(My father was a military man and often was on duty for days on end.)
[Александр Чудодеев. Расписание на завтра (2003) // «Итоги», 2003.02.04]

Institutions With В

clothing store

Image from Pixabay

Several common institutions in Russian are used with в. It may help you to think of this as being inside the corresponding building. However, do not rely on that interpretation too much because, as you will see below, some institutions are used with на.

  • в университете (в институте, в школе): “in university, in college, in (primary/secondary) school”

Ско́лько лет, как ты в университе́те у́чишься?
(How long have you studied in university?)
[А. П. Чехов. Вишневый сад (1904)]

  • в магазине: “in a shop/store”

Коро́бки мы с па́пой купи́ли в магази́не.
(Dad and I bought the boxes in a shop.)
[Олег Кургузов. Проездом из Лондона в Париж // «Трамвай», 1990]

  • в больнице (в поликлинике): “in (the) hospital/clinic”

Так я ему́ посове́товала прийти́ в поликли́нику и обрати́ться к своему́ до́ктору.
(So I advised him to come to the clinic and see his doctor.)
[Анна Мельникова. Приём, приём. Как поняли? (комикс) (2013.04.01) // «Новгородские ведомости», 2013]

Institutions With На

Prague train station and railyard

Image from Pixabay

As I said above, the tricky part is that there are institutions that use на despite their similarity to the group above.

  • на почте: “at the post office”

Е́сли вы хоти́те гаранти́рованно получа́ть журна́л, то вам придётся ходи́ть за ним на по́чту.
(If you want to make sure you get the magazine, you’ll have to go to the post office to pick it up.)
[Михаил Головушкин. Не можем себе позволить терпеть убытки слишком долго (2003) // «Рекламный мир», 2003.04.28]

  • на станции (на остановке, на вокзале): “at the station, at the stop, at the railroad station”

В про́шлый раз он встреча́л меня́ на вокза́ле.
(Last time he picked me up at the train station.)
[Андрей Волос. Недвижимость (2000) // «Новый Мир», 2001]

We will continue this discussion next time; in the meantime check out this earlier post on the same subject.

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About the Author: Maria

Maria is a Russian-born translator from Western New York. She is excited to share her fascination with all things Russian on this blog. Maria's professional updates are available in English on her website and Twitter and in Russian on Telegram.


  1. Vane:

    Thanks you so much! This post is really good, clear, for the students like me, that begin for the second time to study, Russian. Good! <3