Russian Instrumental Case
Russian Language Lesson 14


Welcome to the final lesson about Russian cases. The sixth and final case is the instrumental case. The instrumental case is used to illustrate the concepts of 'with' and 'by means of'. Another way to think about it is that it represents the ‘instrument’ that was used to carry out the action.

Unfortunately it is hard to learn Russian without first learning about the cases. But after this lesson you will be able to recognise and form all six Russian cases, so we can start concentrating on more practical Russian such as vocabulary and using verbs.

Forming the Russian Instrumental Case

Masculine Nouns:

1. All consonants, add “ом”. Except...
2. If the noun ends in unstressed “ж”, “ц”, “ч”, “ш” or “щ”, then add “ем”. (This is to comply with the spelling rules)
3. Replace “й”, with “ем”, if stressed “ём”.
4. Replace “ь”, add “ем”, if stressed “ём”.

Feminine Nouns:

1. Replace “а” with “ой”. Except...
2. If the stem of the noun ends in “ж”, “ц”, “ч”, “ш” or “щ”, replace “а” with “ей” (This is to comply with the spelling rules)
3. Replace “я” with “ей”, if stressed “ёй”.
4. Replace “ь” with “ью”.

Neuter Nouns:

1. Add “м”

Plurals

Look at the last letter nominative singular form (dictionary form) and...
1. All consonants, add "ами".
2. Replace "а", "о" with "ами".
3. Otherwise replace with "ями"

Examples

молоко - молоком (milk)
сметана - сметаной (sour cream)
карандаш - карандашом (pencil)
ложка - ложкой (spoon)
нож - ножом (knife)
муж - мужем (husband)
жена - женой (wife)
Иван - Иваном (Ivan)
Анна - Анной (Anna)
студенты - студентами (students)

Using the Intrumental Case: By means of

The instrumental case is used to express the concept of “by means of”. In English this is normally done using the words “using” or “with”. In English these words can have different meanings, so it’s important to recognise when they are meaning “by means of”.

Examples.

Иван пишет карандашом - Ivan writes with a pencil.

Я ем суп ложкой - I eat soup with a spoon.

Олег режет мясо ножом - Oleg cuts the meat with a knife.


The preposition: ‘с’ - With, Accompanied by.

The preposition “с” means “with” when used with the instrumental case. It expresses the concept of “to be accompanied by” or “together with”. “с” is normally pronounced as though it is part of the next word.

For ease of pronunciation, when “с” it is followed by two or more consonants, it is often written as “со”. This way it can be pronounced as a word on it’s own rather than combined with the following word. Here are a couple of examples from lesson 4:

PlayДайте, пожалуйста, кофе с молоком - Please give me coffee with milk.

PlayДайте, пожалуйста, кофе с молоком и с сахаром - Please give me coffee with milk and sugar.


More examples:

Я ем борщ со сметаной - I eat borsh with sour cream.

Иван хочет чай с молоком - Ivan wants tea with milk.

Надя хочет чай с лимоном - Nadya wants tea with lemon.

Я люблю блинчики с икрой - I love pancakes with caviar


In Russian the preposition “с” is also used to indicate when two people accompany each other. In English we would use the word “and”, but Russian generally uses “с” (with). Have a look at the following Russian examples.

Иван с Анной идут в кафе. - Ivan and Anna are going to the cafe.

Иван с женой идут в кафе. - Ivan and his wife are going to the cafe.

Анна с Иваном идут в кафе. - Anna and Ivan are going to the cafe.

Анна с мужем идут в кафе. - Anna and her husband are going to the cafe.


Another interesting language point is how Russians say “Ivan and I”. It is said as “Мы с Иваном” (“we, with Ivan”). Here are some examples.

Мы с Иваном идём в школу - Ivan and I are going to school.

Мы с мужем идём в кафе - My husband and I are going to the cafe.

Мы с женой идём в кафе - My wife and I are going to the cafe.

Мы с вами - Me and you


Notes:
1. The Russian word for ‘without’ is ‘без’. However it is followed by the genitive case.
2. ‘вместе’ is the Russian word for 'together'. So ‘вместе с’ means 'together with' and is followed by the instrumental case.

Pronouns - Instrumental Case

Here are the Russian pronouns in the instrumental case. Remember that these pronouns are very often follow the preposition “с”. So they commonly have the meaning ‘with me’, ‘with you’, ‘with him’. It is a good idea to also practice saying them with the “с” sound at the start.

Мной - Me

Тобой - You

Им - Him

Ей - Her

Им - It

Нами - Us

Вами - You (plural)

Ими - Them


Seasons and parts of the day.

Changing a season to the instrumental case gives it the meaning of ‘in’. For example:

лето - summer

летом - in summer


осень - autumn

осенью - in autumn


зима - winter

зимой - in winter


весна - spring

весной - in spring


The same principal applies to parts of the day:

утро - morning

утром - in the morning


день - day, afternoon

днём - in the afternoon


вечер - evening

вечером - in the evening


ночь - night

ночью - at night


Вечером я ем борщ со сметаной - In the evening I eat borsh with sour cream.


Other Prepositions and the Instrumental Case.

The instrumental case is also used after the following prepositions. Remember that some of these prepositions may have different meanings if they are followed by a different case.

за - behind, beyond, for

между - between

над - above

перед - in front of

под - under


Examples:

За этим зданием - школа. - Behind this building there is a school.

Между обедом и ужином выпей чай. - Between lunch and dinner drink tea.

Над столом висит лампа. - The lamp is above the table.

Перед этой школой поверните налево. - In front of this school turn to the left.

Под столом сидит кот. - Under the table the cat is sitting.


Important Russian Expressions

Learn the following phrases for special events in Russia

С Рождеством - Merry Christmas

С днём рождения - Happy birthday

С новым годом - Happy new year

Advanced: Verbs that use the Instrumental Case.

The following verbs are used commonly used with the instrumental case. Most of these are reflexive verbs which we haven’t learnt yet. As this is a little bit advanced we won’t give examples now, but it is something to keep in mind. You don't need to learn these verbs now.

быть - to be, is, was

заниматься - to be engaged in, to be occupied with

интересоваться - to be interested in

оказываться - to turn out to be

оставаться - to remain as

пользоваться - to use, enjoy

становиться/стать - to become

увлекаться - to be keen on

управлять - control, manage, govern

являться - to seem, be

The verb “Быть” (to be, is, was) has no present tense. However when it is used in the past and future tense with nouns, the following noun is usually in the instrumental case. (Example: Я был врачом - I was a doctor). You will learn more about this in a later lesson.

Conclusion

This lesson concludes the study of the Russian cases. You should now be able to form each of the Russian cases, and understand the basic uses of each case. You may wish to review some of the cases to make sure you can form them. Although you will get plenty more practice. You now should be able to recognise how all Russian nouns are declined, perhaps some of the plurals will still be difficult, but it will come with some more practice.

The case system is one of the major differences from Russian to English, so congratulations, you have reached an important milestone in your learning!

In the next lessons we will start to introduce more vocabulary and help you improve your sentence forming skills in Russian. The next major point to learn in Russian grammar is forming the past tense, so that you can tell stories about things that have happened in the past. Fortunately in Russian, forming the past tense is actually quite simple.

If you feel you need a break from grammar concepts, now might be a good time to visit the vocabulary section of this site and try memorising a few Russian words. Try to use them in sentences, it will help you remember. If you are finding the Russian grammar difficult, don’t worry, after you learn the past tense you will have learnt most of the basic Russian grammar concepts. From this point you will find that you are able to learn grammar more naturally by looking at sample Russian sentences and texts.

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