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Fun Uses of the Instrumental Case in Russian Posted by on Jul 24, 2018 in grammar, language

The instrumental case (твори́тельный паде́ж) is primarily used to talk about the tools or means that allow you to do something. There are also other, less literal, uses of this case that express the manner in which something is done.

The most common use of the instrumental case is, of course, the instrument with which an action is completed. For example, where you would say “I eat cake with a spoon” in English, in Russian you would not say “Я ем торт с ложкой,” unless the spoon is sitting next to you and helping itself to some cake, too. 🙂 All you need to say is “Я ем торт ло́жкой.” This post will go beyond this literal use and into situations where the instrumental case describes the manner of action or compares an action to something.

runner

Image via Pixabay

Travel

One common use of the instrumental case is to describe the way in which someone or something moves through space. Below are some examples of this use.

Ша́гом

Шаг is a step or a pace. By itself, ша́гом means “at a leisurely pace.” Preceded by an adjective in the instrumental case, it describes someone’s pace or gait.

Она́ вела́ себя́ как на са́мом настоя́щем конце́рте: вы́шла уве́ренным ша́гом, с незави́симо подня́той голово́й, стро́го поклони́лась.
She was acting as if she were at a real concert—she entered the stage confidently, with her head held high, and bowed sternly.
[Анатолий Алексин. Мой брат играет на кларнете (1967)]

Пешко́м

At this point, пешком functions as an adjective meaning “on foot.” This word is related to пешехо́д, pedestrian.

Общежи́тие бы́ло за го́родом, и от электри́чки приходи́лось ещё мину́т со́рок идти́ пешко́м.
The dormitory was outside the city, and you had to walk another forty minutes from the commuter rail station.
[Фридрих Горенштейн. Куча (1982) // «Октябрь», 1996]

Бего́м

Бег refers to running, so бегом means “running” as a manner of going somewhere or just “very fast.”

Прикры́в рот руко́й, она́ бы́стро, почти́ бего́м, пошла́ прочь.
She covered her mouth with her hand and quickly walked away, almost running.
[Марина Зосимкина. Ты проснешься. Книга первая (2015)]

Speed

hare

Image via Pixabay

A similar use of the instrumental case is to describe the speed with which something is done.

Пу́лей

Пу́ля is a bullet. Пу́лей means very fast.

Я вскочи́ла с крова́ти и пу́лей вы́летела из ко́мнаты.
I jumped off the bed and flew out of the room.
[Евгения Ярцева. Плохое настроение // Журнал «Кукумбер», 2011]

За́йцем

За́яц is a hare. За́йцем can refer to darting somewhere quickly or to riding public transport without paying.

Обезу́мев, он ре́зко вскочи́л, сигану́л за́йцем с крова́ти, хотя́ миг наза́д сил не́ было.
Frantic, he jumped up abruptly, darted off the bed
[Павел Мейлахс. Избранник (1996) // «Звезда», 2001]

Е́зжу трамва́ем, да и то за́йцем.
I take the tram, without paying at that.
[Подарки нашему городу (1997) // «Столица», 1997.08.26]

Writing

Russian form

Image based on By Uploader: SergiySW [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Another interesting use of this case is to describe the way something is written or typeset.

Печа́тными бу́квами

Печа́ть is a stamp (like a seal) or printing (the process)/the press (the media). Печа́тные бу́квы are, therefore, block letters (as opposed to cursive). You may hear cursive letters called прописны́е бу́квы, but that is technically inaccurate—that phrase means “capital letters.” From a cultural standpoint, most handwritten notes in Russian are written in cursive.

Убеди́тельно про́сим вас разбо́рчиво заполня́ть купо́н, жела́тельно печа́тными бу́квами.
Please fill out the coupon legibly and print, if possible.
[Лотерея «СН»-2004/1 (2003) // «Сельская новь», 2003.09.16]

Жи́рным шри́фтом

Жирный means “greasy, fat, or thick.” Жи́рный шрифт is boldface.

Ста́рая цена́ зачёркнута, но́вая, со ски́дкой, вы́делена жи́рным шри́фтом.
The old price is crossed out, and the new one is highlighted in bold.
[Сергей Тихонов. Эмбарго с отсрочкой исполнения // «Эксперт», 2015]

Курси́вом

This word may be confusing because it does not mean handwritten cursive. It refers to italic type.

Фра́за, вы́деленная курси́вом, в оригина́ле да́на по-францу́зски.
The phrase in italics is given in French in the original.
[Александр Архангельский. Александр I (2000)]

Can you think of any other interesting examples of using the instrumental case?

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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 on her translation site and on Twitter at @intorussian.