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August 25, 2020

Learn the Russian Instrumental Case [30+ Helpful Examples]

It’s a good idea to learn the Russian instrumental case as the last Russian case.

мы с моей девушкой едим в хорошем ресторане – me and my girlfriend eat at a nice restaurant.

Still, if you learn the following 3 things, you’ll be 80% on your way to master this case:

  • learn the correct endings
  • learn when to use the case
  • practice it in speaking every day

Curious how to achieve that?

Let’s get started.

Russian instrumental case cheatsheet

The Russian instrumental case is not the most difficult case in Russian. That’s the genitive case.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy.

In terms of difficult, I’d rate the instrumental case at number 2 out of 6:

  1. Genitive
  2. Instrumental
  3. dative
  4. accusative
  5. prepositional
  6. nominative

(from most difficult to least difficult).

The reason why it’s difficult is because of 2 reasons:

  • Declension is difficult: the instrumental case does not have many exceptions. Still, getting to know all the endings of nouns, adjectives and pronouns can be quite the challenge.
  • understanding when to use it is difficult: in theory it’s easy, as you mainly use the instrumental case with nouns that are being used as an instrument in the sentence. In practice this is often unclear. It requires more insight and practice than with other cases to correctly know when to use the instrumental.

Together with the fact that the instrumental case is not as common as the genitive case (and about as common as the dative case), I recommend you learn it as your LAST case:

  1. Nominative
  2. Prepositional
  3. Accusative
  4. Genitive
  5. Dative
  6. Instrumental

That’s the order in which you best learn the cases. This maximizes time spent vs results.

Now before we dive into all the meaty details of this case, let’s first go over the main declensions of the instrumental case in Russian.

Why?

  • if you’ve just started learning Russian: it’s a good thing to get a quick overview of how everything looks like. You do NOT need to remember everything at once, but it’s a not a bad idea to get a bird’s eye perspective on stuff
  • if you’re already learning Russian: you likely only need the overview as a quick reminder. If you struggle with a specific part, go there using the table of contents above for a detailed explanation.

So let’s check out the overview of the Russian instrumental case.

Nouns

Masculine
nominative
Instrumental si.Instrumental pl.Translation
столстоломстуламиtable
медведьмедведеммедведямиbear
падежпадежемпадежамиcase
иностранециностранцеминостранцамиforeigner
волкволкомволкамиwolv
Feminine
Nominative
Instrumental sinInstrumental pl.Translation
женщинаженщинойженщинамиWoman
ситуацияситуациейситуациямиSituation
ночьночьюночамиNight
книгакнигойкнигамиBook
земляземлойземлямиLand
станциястанциейстанциямиStation
кроватькроватьюкроватямиBed
Neuter
Nominative
Instrumental si.Instrumental pl.Translation
местоместомместамиplace
мореморемморямиsee
поколениепоколениемпоколениямиgeneration
плечоплечомплечамиshoulder

Adjectives

BeautifulMasc.Neut.Fem.Plur.
Nominativeкрасивыйкрасивоекрасиваякрасивые
Instrumentalкрасивомкрасивомкрасивойкрасивыми
BlueMasc.Neut.Fem.Plur.
Nominativeсинийсинеесиняясиние
Instrumentalсинемсинемсинейсиними

Pronouns

NominativeInstrumentalTranslation
ямнойI
тытобойyou
онимhe
онаейshe
оноимit
мынамиwe
вывамиyou
ониимиthey

How to form the instrumental case in Russian?

The instrumental case is used to show that a word is being used as an instrument in the sentence.

Obvious, right?

An example of this is:

я ем ложкой – I eat with a spoon

While you could use the preposition c (with) in this sentence:

я ем с ложкой – I eat with a spoon

It basically means the same thing.

Later in this article, we go over all the situations when to use the instrumental case.

For now, this was important as this can come back in some of the examples.

Let’s start with the masculine nouns in the instrumental case:

Masculine nouns

The general rule for masculine nouns is that you add -ом at the end of the noun.

An example is: 

мы с братом катаемся на лыжах – Me and my brother are skiing

For plural nouns in the instrumental case, you add -ами.

мы с родителями катаемся на лыжах – Me and my parents are skiing

Here’s the complete overview of the Russian instrumental case for masculine nouns:

  • Singular: all consonants add ом. except…
  • Singular: if the noun ends in unstressed ж, ц, ч, ш or“щ, add ем
  • Singular: replace й, with ем, if stressed ём.
  • Singular: replace ь, add ем, if stressed ём.
  • Plural: all consonants add ами
  • Plural: replace й or ь with ями

Here are examples:

Masculine
nominative
Instrumental si.Instrumental pl.Translation
столстоломстуламиtable
медведьмедведеммедведямиbear
падежпадежемпадежамиcase
иностранециностранцеминостранцамиforeigner
волкволкомволкамиwolv

Feminine nouns

Feminine nouns are a little more difficult than the masculine nouns. The general rule here is that you replace the а sound with -ой.

мы с сестрой сделали подарок родителям – me and my sister made a present for our parents.

The plural works the same as for the masculine nouns. Though feminine nouns already have an а sound, you just add -ми:

мы с сестрами сделали подарок родителям – me and my sisters made a present for our parents.

Here’s the complete rules overview of what to do:

  • Singular: replace а with ой. unless:
  • Singular: if the stem of the nouns ends in ж, ц, ч, ш or“щ, add ей
  • Singular: replace я, with ей, if stressed ёй
  • Singular: if ends in ь, add ю
  • Plural: if ends in а, add ми
  • Plural: if ends in я, add ми
  • Plural: if ends in ь, replace with ями

Here are examples to understand this better:

Feminine
Nominative
Instrumental sinInstrumental pl.Translation
женщинаженщинойженщинамиWoman
ситуацияситуациейситуациямиSituation
ночьночьюночамиNight
книгакнигойкнигамиBook
земляземлойземлямиLand
станциястанциейстанциямиStation
кроватькроватьюкроватямиBed

Neuter nouns

Neuter nouns are easier than masculine and feminine nouns.

Here are the rules for the neuter nouns in the instrumental case:

  • Singular: all consonants add м.
  • Plural: replace о with ами
  • Plural: replace е with ями
Neuter
Nominative
Instrumental si.Instrumental pl.Translation
местоместомместамиplace
мореморемморямиsee
поколениепоколениемпоколениямиgeneration
плечоплечомплечамиshoulder

Adjectives

Just like with the dative case, the instrumental nouns and adjectives have similarities.

Я люблю есть маленькими ложками – I like to eat with small spoons

See that both the adjective and noun end similar?

Мы с моим лучшим другом идем на вечеринку – Me and my best friend go to the party

Same thing here for the masculine singular.

Here is an overview of how adjectives in the instrumental case change:

BeautifulMasc.Neut.Fem.Plur.
Nominativeкрасивыйкрасивоекрасиваякрасивые
Instrumentalкрасивомкрасивомкрасивойкрасивыми
BlueMasc.Neut.Fem.Plur.
Nominativeсинийсинеесиняясиние
Instrumentalсинемсинемсинейсиними

Pronouns

Pronouns are nouns that are placed instead of other nouns to prevent repetition.

Vlad goes to school. Vlad’s mom always makes Vlad sandwiches with egg and mayonnaise, so Vlad gets enough calories. Vlad needs calories because Vlad is on the swimming team. Vlad trains 1 hour in the morning and 1 hour after school. Vlad likes swimming and Vlad’s teammates also like Vlad, that’s why Vlad always goes to Vlad’s swimming practices with pleasure.

That sounds horrible. It’s difficult to read.

Let’s add pronouns:

Vlad goes to school. His mom always makes him sandwiches with egg and mayonnaise, so he gets enough calories. He needs calories because he is on the swimming team. He trains 1 hour in the morning and 1 hour after school. He likes swimming and his teammates also like him, that’s why he always goes to his swimming practices with pleasure.

That reads a lot better, right?

Let’s see how the pronouns look in the Russian dative case:

Personal pronouns

Personal pronouns are nouns that are in place of a person or thing. In English those are he, she, it, we, I them, me etc.

Here are all the personal pronouns in Russian (Instrumental):

NominativeInstrumentalTranslation
ямнойI
тытобойyou
онимhe
онаейshe
оноимit
мынамиwe
вывамиyou
ониимиthey

Personal possessive pronouns

Possessive personal pronouns are pronouns that indicate possession. In English they are my, mine, your, his, her etc.

Here are the Russian possessive personal pronouns in the instrumental case:

NominativeInstrumentalTranslation
моймоёмmy (masc.)
моямоейmy (fem.)
моемоёмmy (neut.)
моимоимиMy (plur.)
нашнашемOur (masc.)
нашанашейOur (fem.)
нашенашемOur (neut.)
нашинашимиour (plur.)

Demonstrative pronouns

Even though ‘demonstrative pronouns’ sounds difficult, it’s a lot easier in reality.

These pronouns are ‘this’ and ‘that’.

Here are they in Russian:

NominativeInstrumentalTranslation
этотэтимthis (masc.)
этаэтойthis (fem.)
этоэтимthis (neut.)
этиэтимиthese (plur.)
тоттемthat (masc.)
татойthat (fem.)
тотемthat (neut.)
тетемиthose (plur.)

Interrogative and relative pronouns

These pronouns can be used to create questions, or to connect sentences.

Кто вчера съел весь пирог? – Who ate the entire pie last night? 

Relative pronouns connect sentences:

Это была собака, которая вчера вечером съела весь пирог – It was the dog, that are the entire pie last night.

The word connects dog with the next sentence. In this case it means ‘that’.

An example with the instrumental case:

Это была Марина, с которой Влад пошел на свидание – It was Marina, with whom Vlad went on a date.

Here’s an overview of these words:

NominativeInstrumentalTranslation
ктокемwho
чточемwhat
какой
какая
какое
какие
каким
какой
каким
какими
what kind
который
которая
которое
которые
которым
которой
которым
которыми
who
чей
чья
чьё
чьи
чьим
чьей
чьим
чьими
whose

In which situations do you use the Russian instrumental case?

In theory it should be easy to distinguish when to use the instrumental case.

In reality it requires more practice and insight then you’d expect.

So let’s just go over the situations when you should use the instrumental case in Russian:

Main usage: as an instrument

We’ve already discussed this before: the main reason to use a noun in this case is to show it’s being used to support the main action (verb).

If in English you see ‘with + noun’, this is a good indication to translate that noun in the instrumental case.

I’ll just give you exaьples here, because that’s a great way to understand it:

  • я иду в школу пешком – I go to school on foot
  • Я пишу ручкой –  I write with a pen.
  • Японцы едят палочками – the Japanese eat with chopsticks.
  • Люди думают своим умом – People think with their mind

Let’s continue to the next prepositions:

After the prepositions (с, за. между, над, перед and под)

The instrumental case is also triggered after prepositions. The most interesting one is the literal translation for with: с.

So most sentence from the previous examples, can also be written with ‘with’:

  • Я пишу с ручкой –  I write with a pen.
  • Японцы едят с палочками – the Japanese eat with chopsticks.
  • Люди думают со своим умом – People think with their mind

Only the first one cannot, because пешком is a mode of walking. It shows the state how the action was done.

Are you starting to understand why the instrumental case sounds easier than it is?

Don’t worry if you don’t completely get this. You will with time. And the most important part of the instrumental case is to make simple sentences where you can simply insert the prepositions с.

Other prepositions that require the instrumental case:

  • за – behind
  • между – between
  • над – over
  • под – under
  • перед – in front of

Each of those prepositions has in common that they indicate where something/someone is located in relation to another object/person.

Examples:

  • Мой дом находится за китайским рестораном – My house is located behind the Chinese restaurant
  • Влад стоит между девушками – Vlad is standing in between the girls
  • Птица летит над водой – The bird flies over the water
  • Под моей кроватью много пыли – There is a lot of dust under my bed
  • Я стоял прямо перед тобой, но ты меня все равно не видел – I stood right in front of you, but you still didn’t see me

Verbs that require the instrumental case

Just like other cases, there are also specific verbs that require you to use the instrumental case after it.

Some commonly used examples:

VerbEnglishExample
Болетьto be illЯ болею гриппом – I am ill with the flu
Быть to beя буду сильным – I will be strong
Восхищатьсяto admireОн восхищается тобой – He admires you
Встречатьсяto meet/dateВлад встречается с Ирой – Vlad is dating Ira
Говоритьto speakТы говоришь со мной? – Are you speaking with me?
Гордиться to be proud ofМой папа гордится мной – My dad is proud of me
Заниматьсяto do; to be occupied withМоя девушка занимается спортом – My girlfriend plays sport
Знакомитьсяto meetСтранный парень хочет с тобой познакомиться – The weird guy wants to meet you
Интересоватьсяto be interested inЯ интересуюсь русским языком – I’m interested in the Russian language
Пользоватьсяto useПочему ты не пользуешься мылом? – Why aren’t you using soap?
Работать to workМоя мама работает врачом – My mom works as a doctor
Становитьсяto becomeМой брат становится очень сильным – My brother is becoming very strong

As you might have noticed, most of the verbs can be divided into 3 groups:

  1. Verb + with + noun
  2. Verb + noun that indicates the state of the person doing the action
  3. Reflexive verb + noun that indicates the object of the verb

If you meet an unknown verb with the instrumental case, it’s good to know these categories. As it will help you determine why a verb needs this case.

Seasons and parts of the day

Another interesting way when you use the instrumental case is to indicate the time or season when an action takes place:

  • Летом часто светит солнце – In summer the sun shines often
  • Этим вечером я иду в спортзал – This evening I go to the gym
  • Днем она занята – During the day she’s busy

Some common seasons/times are:

  • утром – in the morning
  • днем – during the day
  • вечером – in the evening
  • ночью – at night
  • зимой – in winter
  • весной – in spring
  • летом – in summer
  • осенью – in fall

5 tips to learn the Russian instrumental case

To quickly recap: the instrumental case is a medium difficulty case.

The endings aren’t that difficult

But when to apply it into your speech is difficult.

The following tips can help you learn this case faster and more efficiently.

Focus on the main use: with + noun

There are 4 main usages of the case:

  • to show in which state a verb is done
  • with prepositions
  • with verbs
  • seasons/time of the day

I want you to focus in the beginning only on the prepositions с.

мы с моей девушкой едим в хорошем ресторане – me and my girlfriend eat at a nice restaurant.

It’s very easy to learn and understand. And if you say this correctly, you will say the instrumental case correctly 70% of the time.

It’s the most ‘cost effective’ thing to learn here.

Learn it as the last case

Remember the case order I showed you in the beginning?

  1. nominative
  2. prepositional
  3. accusative
  4. genitive
  5. dative
  6. instrumental

If you’re new to Russian, it helps a lot to learn the cases in this order. This progression minimizes effort and makes your learning process go more smoothly.

It starts with the easiest and most common cases. And then slowly adds the less common and more difficult cases.

Write the endings down

An easy way to improve your memory is to write things down.

So if you struggle remembering the correct case endings:

  1. pick one of the tables on this page you struggle most with
  2. handcopy the table once per day on a piece of paper for 3 days
  3. on day 4, test if you can write the table from memory

If you have more than 75% of endings correct, congratulations.

If you have less than 75% of endings correct, try it again.

The reason why we’re shooting for 75%, and not a full 100% is because…

Don’t be a perfectionist

It’s way better to learn one part of Russian to a decent level and then continue – compared to spending 2-3X more time and mastering it.

That’s because you will meet every case, verb or word continuously while practicing speaking anyway.

So if you sometimes forget the plural -ами ending, don’t worry. It’s such a common part of the Russian language that – if you practice speaking daily – it’s impossible not to know it after a couple of months.

In practice this means:

You can spend 4 weeks completely mastering 1 case. Or you can spend 1 week understanding 80% of that case and then move on to the next one. 

What would you choose?

You can guess my answer.

It’s to spend 1 week and then continue.

Grammar is important. But it should always be supporting your speaking practice. Not the other way around.

Which brings us to the next point:

Incorporate this case into your speech

I hope that speaking conversational Russian is your goal. Otherwise you’re on the wrong site.

That’s why it’s good to practice speaking daily.

It doesn’t matter if you have: 

  • a daily zoom/skype conversation
  • a whatsapp phone call
  • a Russian partner
  • or you’re just recording yourself on your phone speaking

While you’re learning the instrumental case, do your best to add it to your conversations.

The more you practice it, the better it will stick in your mind. 


Did you learn something in this guide? Or do you have tips for other people to learn the instrumental case? Let us know in the comments!



Struggle with conversations in Russian? My book the Russian Conversational Blueprint gives you clear instructions and daily tasks to follow to get to an intermediate Russian level in the next 6 months. Learn more.


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All the Russian Possessive Pronouns in 1 Clear ‘Cheatsheet’

Author: Ari Helderman


I started learning Russian seriously in January 2016, and haven't stopped since. I created this site to help other foreigners speak Russian. You can follow my progress in Russian on my YouTube channel Ари Говорит по-русски.

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