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The Instrumental Case in Russian: See How It’s Done

The instrumental case is one of the six grammatical cases in Russian. You can guess its function from its name—it’s mostly used to denote the instrument with the help of which an action is performed. In this post, we explore the instrumental case in the Russian language and show how to properly use it.

Grammatical cases can be confusing to those learning Russian. If you’ve already read several articles on the topic and still find it confusing, order a lesson with one of our professional tutors for a comprehensive explanation.

What Is the Instrumental Case?

The instrumental case is used when we speak about an instrument that helps us to perform an action:

  • Писать карандашом (pisat’ karandashom)

  • To write with a pencil

Thus, nouns in the instrumental case answer the questions “кем?” (kem? – by whom?) and “чем?” (chem? – by what?).

  • Зажечь (чем?) спичкой (zazhech’ [chem?] spichkoi)

  • To light something with a match

  • Я горжусь (кем?) дочерью. (Ya gorzhus’ [kem?] docher’iu.)

  • I am proud of my daughter.

Unfortunately, this is the simple explanation. The full explanation is a bit more complicated.

Other Situations that Call for the Instrumental Case

In addition to telling us by whom and by what, the instrumental case is used in several other situations.

The instrumental case is used to describe someone’s job.

  • Я работаю учителем. (Ya rabotaiu uchitelem.)

  • I work as a teacher.

  • Она работает медсестрой. (Ona rabotaet medsestroi.)

  • She works as a nurse.

The instrumental case is also used in expressions related to space and time.

  • Проснуться днем (prosnut’sya dnyom)

  • To wake up at midday

  • Ехать лесом (ekhat’ lesom)

  • To drive through the forest

Finally, the instrumental is often used with the preposition “с” (s). In this case, it denotes doing something with someone.

  • Он пошел на вечеринку с Андреем. (On poshyol na vecherinku s Andreem.)

  • He went to the party with Andrei.

The preposition “с” (s) together with the noun in the instrumental case can be used to describe something. It is close to the meaning of the preposition “with” in English.

  • Бутылка с водой (butylka s vodoi)

  • A bottle with water

  • Хлеб с сыром (khleb s syrom)

  • Bread with cheese

Practice Makes Perfect

It might be a cliché, but practice really does make perfect. Learn the rules related to the instrumental case, and then practice building sentences. For help with your grammar, work with one of our expert tutors and learn Russian online.

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