In, At, On and More: 25 Russian Prepositions Every Learner Should Master
Prepositions are small words that play a big role in relaying a message.
They’re used to express spatial or temporal relationships between objects or people. And without them, a critical piece of information may be missing, leading to confusion.
In this post, I’m going to teach you how to master Russian prepositions. And before you’re finished, you’ll have 25 new prepositions under your belt.
- Prepositions Used with the Prepositional Case
- Prepositions Used with the Accusative Case
- Prepositions Used with the Nominative Case
- Prepositions Used with the Dative Case
- Prepositions Used with the Instrumental Case
- Prepositions Used with the Genitive Case
By this point in your studies, you’re probably well aware that Russian has six different cases.
Depending on your proficiency level, you might’ve also realized that some cases are more straightforward than others with regard to rules, but there are often exceptions to those rules.
One case that’s particularly misleading for a new student is the Prepositional Case. You might think the prepositional case is the only one that uses prepositions. If so, you’re in for a surprise!
Yes, the prepositional case uses prepositions, but it certainly isn’t the only one.
There are dozens of prepositions that are used in each case, and sometimes these prepositions are used with multiple cases and have different meanings.
There are four different classifications of prepositions:
- Original prepositions. The oldest ones in the language, most of the prepositions addressed in this post fall into this category.
- Prepositions formed from verbs. Two verbal prepositions (благодаря and согласно) are addressed below.
- Adverbial prepositions. Many of these are still used as adverbs!
One of the best ways to perfect your prepositions is by hearing them used in Russian movies, songs and TV shows. Another option is to use an online immersion platform. As an example, FluentU uses authentic Russian web clips and adds learning tools like interactive subtitles, review quizzes and multimedia flashcards.
Rather than getting bogged down trying to learn 50+ prepositions and all their uses, here are some of the most important prepositions you should know.
Prepositions Used with the Prepositional Case
There are five prepositions used with prepositional case nouns, but until you reach a more advanced level, it’s best to focus on only three.
The first two prepositions—в (in) and на (on)—are both used to show location. Frequently, в (in) and на (on) are used to answer the question Где? (Where?) but it’s important to understand the subtle difference between the two.
B — in (at)
If you were to ask someone, Где ты живёшь? (Where do you live?) their response may be:
Я живу в Москве. — I live in Moscow.
Где ты смотрел фильм? — Where did you watch the movie?
В кинотеатре. — In (at) the theatre.
Keep in mind that В is used when describing a defined location or enclosed structure. For instance, В is used in the case of countries and cities/towns because there are established borders (в России — in Russia, в Санкт-Петербурге — in St. Petersburg).
It’s also used for distinct natural environments (в пустыне — in the desert) and for covered and walled buildings (в школе — in school).
Hа — on (at, in)
Hа is the preposition used to indicate a person or thing is on a surface, in an open space or at an event.
Книга на столе. — The book is on the desk.
Картина на стене. — The picture is on the wall.
Анна на выставке весь день. — Anna is at the exhibition all day.
In terms of geography, HA is used in certain instances instead of B.
Notably, HA is the preposition for islands and peninsulas (на Гавайских островах — on Hawaii), for points of the compass (на западе — in the west), places that are outside (на площади — in the square, на Арбате- in the Arbat), in open-air buildings (на стадионе — in the stadium) or historically public and exposed spaces (на почте — at the post office, на станции- at the station).
O — about
The third preposition used with prepositional case nouns is O, which means “about.”
Мы говорили о новостях. — We talked about the news.
О чём ты мечтал? — What were you dreaming about?
Prepositions Used with the Accusative Case
While the prepositional case uses в and на to answer the question Где?, the accusative case uses the same two prepositions to answer the question Куда ты идёшь? (Where are you going to?) and frequently involves a verb of motion.
The same rules apply as in the prepositional case with regard to whether в or на is used.
B — to
This time, the word B means “to” instead of “in” or “at.”
…в Москву (to Moscow).
…в Россию (to Russia).
…в театр (to the theatre).
…в школу (to school).
Hа — to
When used in the accusative case, Hа means “to.”
…на запад (to the west).
…на Гавайи (to Hawaii).
…на площадь (to the square).
…на вокзал (to the station).
…на стадион (to the stadium).
Через — across, through, over
Мы живём через улицу. — We live across the street.
Заяц быстро бежал через лес. — The rabbit ran through the forest fast.
Дети перелезли через забор. — The children climbed over the fence.
За — (to) behind, beyond
За has two different meanings in Russian when used with the accusative case. With a verb of motion, it means behind or beyond.
Он переехал за реку. — He has moved across the river.
Собака прошла за угол и ждала девочку. — The dog went behind (around) the corner and waited for the girl.
Prepositions Used with the Nominative Case
За — for, kind of
За is also used with a nominative case noun to mean “for” or “kind of.”
Спасибо за красивый подарок. — Thank you for the beautiful gift.
Спасибо за кофе. — Thanks for the coffee.
Alternatively, за can be used to answer the question Что? (What?) Specifically, Что? is another way of asking какой (What kind of?) in the sense of:
Что он за президент? — What kind of president is he?
Что они за работники? — What kind of employees are they?
Prepositions Used with the Dative Case
There’s one additional preposition used to answer the question Куда? which is used with the dative case:
К — to, toward (a person)
While в and на are used with the accusative to show the direction of movement to a place, к is used with the dative to show movement to a person, someone’s home or a place or building (without going inside).
Сегодня вечером мы пойдём к друзьям. — This evening we are going to (see) our friends.
Она пошла к Сергею. — She went to Sergei’s (place/house).
Водитель подъехал к дому. — The driver drove up to the house.
По — along, over, on, around (about)
Similar to к, по is used to demonstrate a physical movement, typically on or along a surface.
Дети бежали по улице. — The children ran along the street.
Корабль плывёт по реке. — The ship is sailing down the river.
Alternatively, по can be translated as “around” or “about” when talking about a very large area.
Она путешествовала по миру четыре месяца. — She travelled around the world for four months.
Она бегает по парку на выходных. — She runs around the park on the weekend.
Благодаря — thanks to
In addition to the two above prepositions, there are two verbal prepositions which are valuable to know and identical to the corresponding phrases in English, “Благодаря” and “Согласно.”
Благодаря can be used to express appreciation, acknowledge someone/something or state that a result was due to someone or an intervention of some kind.
Благодаря врачам, она выжила. — Thanks to the doctors, she survived.
Благодаря годам обучения, он поступил в университет. — Thanks to years of study, he was admitted to university.
Согласно — according to
Our final preposition in the dative case is Согласно.
Согласно отцу, Павел гений! — According to father, Pavel is a genius!
Согласно статье, экономика ужасна. — According to the article, the economy is terrible.
Prepositions Used with the Instrumental Case
С — with
С is the most common preposition used with instrumental case nouns because people often want to explain with whom or what they’re doing something.
Мы с мужем купили новый дом! — My husband and I (Literally: I with my husband) bought a new house!
Я пью чай с лимоном. — I drink tea with lemon.
As all Russian learners quickly discover, there are seemingly countless versions of verbs of motion. There are also plenty of prepositions to denote movement, along with location in general.
Между — between, among
This preposition can be used to show something or someone is physically positioned between two objects or among multiple objects/people.
Она поделила работу между участниками. — She distributed the work among the participants.
Мяч в саду между двумя домами. — The ball is in the garden between the two houses.
Alternatively, между can be used in an abstract sense.
Это был секрет между членами семьи. — It was a secret among the family members.
Пара обменялась взглядами между собой. — The couple exchanged a glance between themselves.
Перед — before, in front of
Перед can be used with or without a verb of motion and showcases that something is physically in front of or located before another person or object.
Машина припаркована перед домом. — The car is parked in front of the house.
Студент встал перед классом и произнёс речь. — The student stood before (in front of) the class and delivered the speech.
Дети идут по проходу перед невестой. — The children walk down the aisle before (in front of) the bride.
Над — over, above
Similar to перед, над can be used with or without a verb of motion and most commonly expresses a spatial relationship in which an object is over or above another.
Самолёт громко и быстро летел над городом. — The airplane flew over the city loudly and quickly.
Портрет королевы висит на стене над камином в гостиной. — The queen’s portrait hangs on the wall over the fireplace in the living room.
Под — under, beneath
Под means “under” or “beneath” and is used as in the following sentences.
Мне нравится спать под звёздами. — I like to sleep under the stars.
Собака часто лежит под крыльцом летом. — The dog often lies under the porch during the summer.
Take Note! If a verb of motion is used and “under” is the destination of that motion, под is used with an accusative case noun:
Он положил сумку под стол. — He put the bag under the table.
Лестница ведёт под землю. — The stairs lead underground.
Prepositions Used with the Genitive Case
As misleading as the name is, the prepositional case does not use prepositions en masse.
Instead, the genitive case uses the most prepositions—more than 30!
Many of the prepositions used with the genitive case are infrequently utilized, so don’t feel like you need to learn them all. But here are several you simply can’t live without!
У — to have; by, near, at
One of the first grammatical structures Russian learners master is the phrase У меня есть (I have).
Извините пожалуйста, у меня есть вопрос. — Excuse me, I have a question.
У меня есть новое платье, которое я хочу показать вам. — I have a new dress that I want to show you.
Similarly, у can be used to say at (someone’s house). For example:
У врача стоит новая машина. — There is a new car at the doctor’s.
У is also used to say something is near or by something or someone.
Завтра мы пообедаем у директора. — Tomorrow we will have lunch at the director’s (house).
Студенты стоят у экрана. — The students are standing by/near the screen.
Без — without
Я пью кофе без сахара и молока. — I drink coffee without sugar or milk.
Мы уехали в отпуск без детей. — We went on vacation without the children.
While в, на and к show movement toward, от, из and с are used with the genitive to indicate the origin and show movement from.
However, it’s important to note that the next three prepositions are slightly different.
От — (away) from
От can be used to show someone or something is moving away from a person or location.
Я пришёл сюда от доктора. — I came here from the doctor’s (office).
Отойди от дороги! — Get away from the road!
Из — (out) from
When using из, just remember that a person or object is moving out from a place.
Вор бежал из дома. — The thief ran from the house.
Самолёт летел из Москвы в Санкт-Петербург. — The plane flew from Moscow to Saint Petersburg.
С — from, down from
Она идёт с концерта. — She’s coming from a concert.
Я взял книги с полки. — I took the books down from the shelf.
It can be confusing at first to determine which form of “from” should be used. One easy way to keep от, из and с straight is by memorizing them with the corresponding to/toward vocabulary as in the table below!
|To/from an enclosed building, country/town with defined borders||To/from a surface, event, open area||To/from a person or a building if you are near but not inside it|
|B + accusative||HA + accusative||К + dative|
|Из + genitive||C + genitive||От + genitive|
Для — for, for the sake of, for the benefit of
This preposition is used to express that something benefits someone or something else.
Она делает всё для своих детей. — She does everything for her children.
Эта песня для моей жены. — This song is for my wife.
Этот шкаф для фарфора. — This cabinet is for the china.
После — after
This preposition is used with the genitive case to convey temporal origin.
Ты должен закончить домашнее задание после ужина. — You must finish your homework after dinner.
После аварии я больше никогда не хочу выходить из дома! — After the accident, I never want to leave home again!
До — until, before, as far as
Like После, До is used to convey temporal origin, but from the opposite side of the spectrum.
Ты можешь играть на улице до обеда. — You can play outside until dinner.
The preposition до may also be used in a physical sense.
Они добрались до Киева, когда начался снег. — They reached Kiev as the snow began to fall.
And finally, since you’re now familiar with с and до, there’s a common time expression you’ll find useful. It’s the structure “from…until!”
Он работал с 9 до 5 каждый день в течение 40 лет. — He worked from nine to five every day for 40 years.
Встреча проходит с рассвета до заката. — The meeting takes place from dawn to dusk.
All in all, there are plenty of prepositions to choose from, and Russians like to use them with all the cases. It may take you a while to master them, but if you get comfortable with these 25 you’ll be well on your way!