Notes from Schaum’s Russian Grammar: Prepositions

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Ah, prepositions, those tiny words that I happily ignored for so many years. It is за тебя or для тебя? Who cares!

Well, it turns out they’re kind of a big deal after all. :/ Ignorance was bliss.

As the opening page warns, “the same preposition in English may be used in several different meanings, which in Russian are expressed by a different preposition.”

For example, let’s look at one preposition: FOR.

  • для (подарок для папы = a gift for Dad)
  • на (закрыто на ремонт = closed for repairs)
  • в (в перевый раз = for the first time)
  • за (спасибо за всё = thanks for everything)
  • к (уважение к родителям = respect for parents)
  • по (по этой причине = for this reason)

And it’s not just about which preposition you’re using. You’ve got to master which case follows the preposition AND many prepositions can be followed by multiple cases, yikes.

I’m going to follow the textbook’s format and present a few takeaways from each case.


The Nominative Case

Definitely the easiest to learn since the nominative form can follow only two prepositions: в and за.

  • Она пошла в програмисты. = She became a programmer. (Note the nominative plural is used with professions.)
  • Что это за место? = What sort/kind of place is this?


The Accusative Case

A bit trickier. Про, через, and сквозь are always followed by the accusative case. Meanwhile, о, по, с, в and на are sometimes followed by the accusative when you need to convey a specific meaning.

New for me: с + time, weight, distance = about, approximately.

  • verb + с килограмм = about a kilo
  • verb + с минуту = about a minute
  • verb+ с неделю = about a week
  • verb + с километр = about a kilometer


В & На: Accusative Case vs Prepositional Case

This section alone was 4 pages long and pretty overwhelming. :/ My strategy for overwhelm is to pick just one thing and leave the rest for the future. This is my “one thing”:

  • Location verb-> accusative case, no preposition needed.
    • She was in Moscow for a month. = Она была в Москве месяц.
  • Motion or time verb -> accusative case, use the preposition.
    • She will go to Moscow for a month. = Она поедет в Москву на месяц.


Accusative Case vs Instrumental Case

More nuances, such as:

  • To describe куда?, use за / под + accusative.
    • Они поехали за границу. = They went abroad.
    • Мы сели под дерево. = We sat down under a tree.
  • To describe где?, use за / под + instrumental.
    • Они жили за границей. = They lived abroad.
    • Мы сидели под деревом. = We were sitting under a tree.

Also new and useful: how to say someone is approaching a certain age.

  • Ему под пятьдесят. = He is approaching fifty.


Genitive Case

The textbook listed 36 (!!!) prepositions commonly used in this case. Here are some of the best expressions from this section:

  • без колебаения = without hesitation
  • из вежливости = (to do something) out of politeness
  • из любопытства = (to do something) out of curiosity
  • из любви = (to do something) out of love
  • из ревности = (to do something) out of jealousy
  • из-под контроля = (to go) out of control
  • освобождаться от работы = to get off work (lit: to free oneself from work)
  • знать поэму от начала до конца = to know a poem from the beginning to the end
  • жить от зарплаты до зарплаты = to live from paycheck to paycheck
  • близ моря = near the sea (poetic)
  • вне всякого сомнения = beyond all doubt
  • сверх моих ожиданий = beyond my expectations
  • среди ночи = in the middle of the night
  • среди бела дня = in broad daylight


Prepositional Case

The easy part: the prepositional case always follows при.

The hard part: sometimes при is invisible in English.

  • столовая при университете = the university cafeteria (lit: the cafeteria attached to the university)

The harder part: в, на, о, and по can also be followed by the prepositional case.


Dative Case

Lots of feelings here:

  • любовь к + dative, a love for…
  • уважение к + dative, a respect for…
  • слабость к + dative, a weakness for…
  • интерес к + dative, an interest in…


Instrumental Case

I finally learned how to say “during breakfast” or “during lunch” (за завтраком, за обедом).


There was a ton of info in this chapter – 34 pages of prepositions! I now get why Russians tear their hair out over phrasal verbs in English. The combinations are endless!!

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