Russian Language Blog

Using the Instrumental Case, Part 3 Posted by on Apr 14, 2011 in language, Russian for beginners


«Дорогие друзья» [Dear friends], I don’t know about you, «но мне надоедает творительный падеж» [but I am tired of the instrumental case]. But luckily, this is the last post in the series on the instrumental case. Russian grammar is good, but only in small doses, right? But luckily we haven’t only had grammar this week, due to Yelena’s excellent post «о Гагарине и космонавтах» [about Gagarin and cosmonauts]. 

So, we have discussed previously ways to use «творительный падеж» [the instrumental case] but there is still one section remaining to be discussed: the instrumental case with certain adjectives («прилагательные») and prepositions («предлоги»).

Use the instrumental case with the following short-form adjectives:

  • «доволен/довольна/довольны» [satisfied with] «Я довольна своей квартирой.» [I am satisfied with my apartment.]
  • «знаком/знакома/знакомы с чем/кем» [to be acquainted/familiar with someone/something] — «Мы с ней знакомы.» [We are acquainted with her.]
  • «согласен/согласна/согласны с чем/кем» [to agree with someone/something] — «Я согласна с тобой.» [I agree with you.]

The instrumental case is also used with the following prepositions:

  • «с» [with (showing accompaniment)] — «Я люблю кофе с молоком.» [I like coffee with milk.]

Note: for the following prepositions, the question «Где?» [Where? (locational)] is being answered, not «Куда [Where? (directional)].

  • «за» [behind] — «Наш дом за церковью.» [Our house is behind the church.]
  • «перед» [in front of, before] — «Я стояла перед зданием.» [I was standing in front of the building.]
  • «над» [above] — «Картина висела над кроватью.» [The painting was hanging above the bed.]
  • «под» [under] — «Письмо лежит под компьютером.» [The letter is under the computer.]
  • «между» [between] — «Я сидела между Владимиром и Людмилой.» [I was sitting between Vladimir and Lyudmila.]
  • «рядом с» [next to] — «Они живут рядом с Путиными.» [They live next to the Putins.]

Also, «перед» and «над» also take the instrumental case when used with a verb of motion, but «за» and «под» take the accusative case when used with a verb of motion.

Confused? Have questions or comments? Let me know using the comment form below. And remember, it’s this grammar that makes «русский язык великий и могучий» [the Russian language great and mighty], right?

Oh, and I promise that my next post won’t be grammar-related. I’ve got an excellent culture-related post planned for later this month. I’m not going to say what it is yet, but I’ll say this: it involves making pretty things.

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About the Author: Natalie

I'm Natalie and I love the Russian language and sharing my knowledge with others. I graduated from university with a dual degree in Russian language & literature and history.


  1. Ryan:

    Пост о космонавтов? Не говорят “о космонавтах”?

  2. Daniel:

    Ryan, I agree with you about the post title. I think should be “космонавтах” (о чём) in plural prepositive.

  3. Natalie:

    Both of you are correct, of course. 🙂 I have fixed the error. I hate it when I get my cases mixed up…

  4. Joerg:

    Dear Natalie,

    could you please give examples for what you have in mind with “Also, «перед» and «над» also take the instrumental case when used with a verb of motion, but «за» and «под» take the accusative case when used with a verb of motion.” Frankly spoken, I can’t follow your thoughts on that one.

    Говорят же, например: “Он приедет за тобой в 6 часов.” – He will pick you up at 6 o’clock.
    А как будет: “The ball flew over the fence.”? I’d say: “Мяч летел над забор.”

    Заранее спасибо!

  5. Shady_arc:

    2 Joerg: I think it is a mistake. “Перед” and “над” are used only to describe location (no directional meaning here), so the usage with the verbs of motion is, of course, the same as with other verbs. That is because they only mean where the action takes place, not the final point/destination/source point of an action. “за” and “под”, however, may be used both for describing where the action is performed and where the action is directed to:

    Он прошёл за домом. Девочка любила бегать под открытым небом. (Instrumental, as the location is described)
    Старуха зашла за шкаф. Мышь забежала под стол. (Accusative, because the direction is in question).

    “The ball flew over the fence” is “Мяч летел над забором” (The ball was flying above the fence), “Мяч пролетел над забором” (one-time finished action) or you can just say “Мяч перелетел через забор” (the verb “перелетел” emphasizes the idea of “over”, “through”, “it passed that point”).

    When you want to express direction “on top of”, you use “на”(on), rather than “над”. I mean, any action like “put the book on the table” or “She climbed onto a chair”. In the former case, locational and directional meanings are interchangeble (положить книгу на стол/на столе). In the latter, they are not (“Она забралась/залезла на стул” – whichever verb you like more). “Performing climbing while being on the chair” makes no sense.

    Maybe that’s because actions like putting something are strongly associated with the object being there, so usage of Locative (на столе) doesn’t seem a mistake. Active actions like jumping on top of, climbing onto/under, walking behind something etc are the ones where the direction and place of the action are clearly perceived as different things. Thus, incorrect case usage immediately seems wrong to a native speaker.

  6. Shady_arc:

    On the other hand, there may be some “directional” uses, like “Прибить полку над дверью” (to put up a shelf above the door), but for “над” and “перед” they are not distinguished from locational uses, case-wise. Instrumental is used. Note that you can only use it as a “direction” only when in effect it means a location to place something. “Flying towards the point above the building” or “walking towards the point in front of the crowd” cannot be expressed with these prepositions (in fact, these concepts are as hard to express in Russian, as in English, i.e. you need a long expression describing how the point is placed so-and-so as compared to a certain object)

  7. Joerg:

    @Shady_arc: Thank you very much for your extensive comments!