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August 27, 2020

Step-by-Step Plan to Learn the Russian Prepositional Case in 20 Minutes

The Russian prepositional case is the easiest Russian case:

If you see one of the three prepositions в, на or о ——–> add е to the end of the noun.

That’s it.

Congratulations. You now know the prepositional case in Russian 😉

Russian prepositional case cheatsheet

This case is the simplest case to learn in Russian.

That’s why I recommend you learn it as the second case:

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

So if you have no clue yet what the nominative case is, go there first.

Short summary about the prepositional case:

  • the case indicates that an action is located IN, ON, or is ABOUT something.
  • it’s triggered by 3 prepositions: в (in), на (on) and о (about)
  • nouns in the prepositional case generally add the letter е to their einding (or replace the last letter if it’s a vowel)
  • adjectives in the prepositional case replace their ending with ом (masculine and neuter), ой (feminine) and ых (plural)

If you remember these 4 rules AND read through this article once to understand the nuances of each rule, you will say the prepositional case correctly 90% of the time.

Before we dive deep into the rules, explanations and examples of the prepositional case in Russian, I first want to share with you an overview of how to decline all the nouns in this case.

Nouns

Masculine
nominative
Prepositional si.Prepositional pl.Translation
столстолестулахtable
медведьмедведемедведяхbear
падежпадежепадежахcase
иностранециностранцеиностранцахforeigner
волкволкеволкахwolv
Feminine
Nominative
Prepositional si.Prepositional pl.Translation
женщинаженщинеженщинахWoman
ситуацияситуацииситуацияхSituation
ночьночиночахNight
книгакнигекнигахBook
земляземлеземляхLand
станциястанциистанцияхStation
кроватькроватикроватяхBed
Neuter
Nominative
Prepositional si.Prepositional pl.Translation
местоместеместахplace
моремореморяхsee
поколениепоколениипоколенияхgeneration
плечоплечеплечахshoulder

Adjectives

BeautifulMasc.Neut.Fem.Plur.
Nominativeкрасивыйкрасивоекрасиваякрасивые
Prepositionalкрасивомкрасивомкрасивойкрасивых
BlueMasc.Neut.Fem.Plur.
Nominativeсинийсинеесиняясиние
Prepositionalсинемсинемсинейсиних

Pronouns

NominativePrepositionalTranslation
яМнеI
тыТебеyou
онНёмhe
онаНейshe
оноНёмit
мыНасwe
выВасyou
ониНихthey

How to form the prepositional case in Russian?

The prepositional case is the easiest to make in Russian. That’s because you simply add an е to the end of a noun.

я живу в доме – I live in a house

Or if a word ends in a vowel, you simply replace that vowel with the letter е:

Я живу в квартире – I live in an apartment

(the word for house (дом) ends in a consonant, and the word for apartment (квартира) ends in a vowel).

This rule works whether it’s a masculine, feminine or neuter noun. 

Of course there are some nuances here, but we discuss those in the section on noun genders.

If you compare this to any other case, you quickly notice that the prepositional case is much easier. As other cases require you to remember more endings.

That’s why you should learn this case the first after the nominative case.

Let’s go deeper into each noun gender, and how it changes:

Masculine nouns

80% of masculine nouns end in a consonant. So what do you do if you want to make this into the prepositional case?

You add the letter е.

Some words end in й or ь, and also add a е sound. So while in speaking this sounds almost the same as with consonants, in written Russian it’s different.

Here are the rules:

  • Singular: if a word ends in a consonant, add е
  • Singular: if a word ends in й, replace with е
  • Singular: if a word ends in ь, replace with е
  • Plural: if a word ends in a consonant, add ах
  • Plural: if a word ends in й, replace with ях
  • Plural: if a word ends in ь, replace with ях

While it may look like a lot to take in, there are relatively few masculine words ending in ь or й

Here are examples of masculine nouns in the prepositional case:

Masculine
nominative
Prepositional si.Prepositional pl.Translation
столстолестулахtable
медведьмедведемедведяхbear
падежпадежепадежахcase
иностранециностранцеиностранцахforeigner
волкволкеволкахwolv

Feminine nouns

Just like with masculine nouns, you add the letter е to the endings of feminine nouns.

Since these nouns always end in a vowel (or the soft sign ь), you need to REPLACE the last letter.

Here are the rules:

  • Singular: if a word ends in а, replace with е
  • Singular: if a word ends in я, replace with е
  • Singular: if a word ends in ия, replace with ии
  • Singular: if a word ends in ь, replace with е
  • Plural: if a word ends in а, add х
  • Plural: if a word ends in я, add х
  • Plural: if a word ends in ия, add х
  • Plural: if a word ends in ь, replace with ях

The only ‘unusual’ thing here is with words like situation (ситуация), that end in -ия. You add an и instead of е

While speaking this difference is negligible however. Especially once you reach the upper beginner to intermediate level, your speaking speed will be fast enough that no one will notice the difference between в ситуации (correct) and в ситуацие (incorrect). 

Here are examples of feminine nouns in the Russian prepositional case:

Feminine
Nominative
Prepositional sinPrepositional pl.Translation
женщинаженщинеженщинахWoman
ситуацияситуацииситуацияхSituation
ночьночиночахNight
книгакнигекнигахBook
земляземлеземляхLand
станциястанциистанцияхStation
кроватькроватикроватяхBed

Neuter

Neuter nouns are even easier than feminine and masculine nouns.

Here are the rules:

  • Singular: if a word ends in о, replace with е
  • Singular: if a word ends in е, it doesn’t change
  • Plural: if a word ends in о, replace with ах
  • Plural: if a word ends in е, replace with ях

That’s it. It may sound weird that if a word ends in е, it doesn’t change (such as with the word for sea: море). But since the prepositional case is ALWAYS triggered by a preposition, it’s easy to see when the noun is in the nominative or prepositional case.

Here are examples of neuter nouns in the prepositional case:

Neuter
Nominative
Prepositional si.Prepositional pl.Translation
местоместеместахplace
моремореморяхsee
поколениепоколениипоколенияхgeneration
плечоплечеплечахshoulder

Adjectives

Adjectives change according to the case and gender of the noun they represent.

In English the word for beautiful is ALWAYS the same.

In Russian the word for beautiful can be written in 24 different ways (in theory. In practice it’s around 15 if you remove the duplicate forms but add the short adjectives).

The prepositional case has 3 different adjectives:

  • adjectives to a masculine/neuter noun replace their stem with -ом
  • adjectives to a feminine noun replace their stem with -ой
  • adjectives to a plural noun replace their stem with -ых

How does this look in practice?

  • Я живу в красивом доме – I live in a beautiful house (masculine)
  • Я живу в красивой квартире – I live in a beautiful apartment (feminine)
  • Я живу в красивом месте – I live in a beautiful place (neuter)
  • Я живу в красивых домах в Амстердаме и на Бали – I live in beautiful houses in Amsterdam and Bali (plural)

Most adjectives work like красивый. 

Things can change though, as adjectives always have 2 additional rules:

  • Singular: if an adjective stem ends in a letter mentioned in the 5-letter spelling rule (ж, ш, щ, ч, ц) and the ending is unstressed, then -ом becomes -ем, and -ой becomes -ей respectively. 
  • Plural: if an adjective stem ends in a letter mentioned in the 7-letter spelling rule (к, г, х,  ж, ш, щ or ч ), the plural ending is -их.

There are also ‘soft stem’ adjectives, and they change like this:

Beautiful
(regular)
Masc.Neut.Fem.Plur.
Nominativeкрасивыйкрасивоекрасиваякрасивые
Prepositionalкрасивомкрасивомкрасивойкрасивых
Good (stem
ends in ш)
Masc.Neut.Fem.Plur.
Nominativeхорошийхорошеехорошаяхорошие
Prepositionalхорошемхорошемхорошейхороших
Russian (stem
ends in к)
Masc.Neut.Fem.Plur.
NominativeРусскийРусскоеРусскаяРусские
PrepositionalРусскомРусскомРусскойРусских
Blue (soft
stem adjective)
Masc.Neut.Fem.Plur.
Nominativeсинийсинеесиняясиние
Prepositionalсинемсинемсинейсиних

Pronouns

Pronouns are used to replace a noun. Otherwise sentences would become boring fast.

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.

Pronouns exist in different forms, and the bad news is you must memorize them.

The good news is that pronouns are common, so you meet them in virtually every conversation. 

Repetition is key to memorizing new words.  The more you hear a word, the better you will remember it.

Personal pronouns

Personal pronouns are words that come in place of a noun. In English these are words like he, she, it, I, you, we, they, them, his and her.

  • Я говорю о ней – I’m talking about her
  • Она говорит о нас – she’s talking about us

Here’s an overview of all the personal pronouns in the Russian prepositional case:

NominativePrepositionalTranslation
яМнеI
тыТебеyou
онНёмhe
онаНейshe
оноНёмit
мыНасwe
выВасyou
ониНихthey

Personal possessive pronouns

Personal possessive pronouns are words such as his, her, ours, yours, my and mine.

  • Я сейчас живу в ее доме – I’m currently living in her house
  • Она живет в нашей квартире – She’s living in our apartment

Here are all the possessive personal pronouns in the prepositional case:

NominativePrepositionalTranslation
моймоёмmy (masc.)
моямоейmy (fem.)
моемоёмmy (neut.)
моимоихMy (plur.)
нашнашемOur (masc.)
нашанашейOur (fem.)
нашенашемOur (neut.)
нашинашихour (plur.)
NominativePrepositionalTranslation
твойтвоёмyour (masc.)
твоятвоейyour(fem.)
твоетвоёмyour (neut.)
твоитвоихyour (plur.)
вашвашемyour (masc.)
вашавашейyour (fem.)
вашевашемyour (neut.)
вашивашихyour (plur.)
NominativePrepositionalTranslation
егоегоhis
еёеёher
егоегоits
ихихtheir

Demonstrative pronouns

Demonstrative pronouns point to something. In English they mean ‘this’ and ‘that’

  • Я в этой синей машине, а не в той синей машине – I am in this blue car, not in that blue car.

When you go over the table below, you quickly notice the similarities between demonstrative pronouns, possessive pronouns and adjectives.

NominativePrepositionalTranslation
этотэтомthis (masc.)
этаэтойthis (fem.)
этоэтомthis (neut.)
этиэтихthese (plur.)
тоттомthat (masc.)
татойthat (fem.)
тотомthat (neut.)
тетехthose (plur.)

Interrogative and relative pronouns

Interrogative pronouns are pronouns that you say when asking a question:

  • О ком ты говоришь? – About whom are you talking?
  • В чём вы спрятали сокровище? – In what did you hide the treasure?

Relative pronouns are used when you connect a noun to the next sentence.

  • Вы видите дом, в котором произошло преступление? – Do you see the house in which a crime happened?
  • Где произошла авария, о которой вы говорили? – Where did the accident happen, that you were talking about?

Here is an overview of these interrogative and relative pronouns in the prepositional case:

NominativePrepositionalTranslation
ктокомwho
чточёмwhat
какой
какая
какое
какие
каком
какой
каком
каких
what kind
который
которая
которое
которые
котором
которой
котором
которых
who
чей
чья
чьё
чьи
чьем
чьей
чьем
чьих
whose

Exceptions

Russian does not know many exceptions. I find it a logical mathematical language. That doesn’t mean that there are no exceptions, though.

Especially with the prepositional case there are ‘ancient’ words that add у/ю to the end of the word.

You need to memorize them:

  • В крыму – in Crimea
  • В раю – in heaven
  • В бою – in battle
  • В лесу – in the forest
  • В аду – in hell
  • В аэропорту – in the airport
  • В саду – in the garden
  • В шкафу – in the closet
  • На полу – on the floor

Some other exceptions are:

  • О имени – about the name
  • О дочери – about the daughter
  • О матери – about the mother

In which situations do you use the Russian prepositional case?

The prepositional case in Russian has the easiest ‘triggers’ of any case. The name hints at its usage.

Just by looking at the previous examples, you should already have a clear idea of when and how to use this case.

Still, it’s never a bad idea to give examples for each situation.

Also, the distinction between в and на causes confusion.

In something – в

When something is located IN something or somewhere, you use the preposition в.

Examples:

  • В Москве – in Moscow
  • В России – in Russia
  • В доме – in the house
  • В принципе – in principal
  • В еде – in the food
  • В центре – in the center

So when something/someone is located IN something/somewhere you use в.

Sometimes в becomes во. That happens when the word after starts a в or ф + consonant. 

  • во фрагменте – in the fragment
  • во Франции – in France
  • во всех случаях – in all cases

There are also some common words that always do this

  • во мне – in me
  • во многом – in a lot
  • во многих – in many

On something – на

If something/someone is located ON something, you use на. This usually means that it’s physically located. Though you also use this preposition when you talk about an event, where something specific happens.

Examples:

  • На столе – on the table
  • На стуле – on the chair
  • На кровати – on the bed
  • На работе – at work
  • На мероприятии – at an event
  • На пресс-конференции – at a press conference

This will cause confusion at a certain point. Especially with words such as work (работа), that can either mean a physical place or an abstract thing:

Единственное, что мне не нравится в моей работе, – это отвечать клиентам – The only thing I don’t like in my work, is answering clients.

Мои коллеги на работе крутые – My colleagues at work are cool.

The more you hear the correct prepositions to the right words, the better you will say them yourself.

If you’re really unsure about something, just type it in Google translate in English, and you’ll find out very quickly if it’s в or на.

Also, if you make mistakes here, it’s still completely understandable to Russian speakers what you mean. So don’t beat yourself up over these mistakes.

About something – о

When you are talking ABOUT something, you use the prepositional case with о.

Depending on the noun, this preposition can change its form:

  • If followed by an adjective/noun that starts with a consonant, you use о
  • If followed by an adjective/noun that starts with a vowel, you use об
  • With a couple of words, you use обо (me, everything)

This is very straightforward. It’s actually the same with the English word ‘a’ and ‘an’.

  • A noun
  • An adjective

Examples show this the best in Russian:

  • Об этом – about this
  • О том – about that
  • О доме – about the house
  • Об озере – about the lake

Some words that require обо:

  • Обо мне – about me
  • Обо всём – about everything

Three tips to learn the Russian prepositional case

As this case is easier than other cases, it won’t take you a long time to understand it.

Even if you’ve never before heard about the concept of cases (words changing their ending according to their function in the sentence), the prepositional case is a good one to start with.

If you see one of the three prepositions в, на or о ——–> add е to the end of the noun.

Everyone can understand this, even if you’ve got no clue about grammar.

So how do you learn the prepositional case in Russian effectively?

Start with nouns only

There’s a lot to remember, so you shouldn’t overreach yourself. 

Especially if you’re a beginner Russian learner, you should take it east.

Start with nouns only.

Take a good look at the nouns and how they change.

Don’t even look at the adjectives or personal pronouns.

Only when you think you understand it well, continue to the next level…

Add adjectives and pronouns

Once you understand how nouns change, start looking at adjectives.

First only try masculine/neuter adjectives. And later add feminine and plural nouns.

When you feel you understand the adjectives most of the time, move on to the pronouns.

And if you struggle to remember everything well?

Write it down

Writing things down helps tremendously to better remember it.

Especially if you repeat words over a couple of days.

An easy strategy to apply here is the following:

  1. decide what you want to learn (nouns, adjectives or pronouns), and pick one or more of the tables on this page.
  2. handcopy the table for 3 days on a sheet of paper.
  3. try to write the table from memory on the 4th day.

If you have more than 80% correct, it means you’ve successfully done the exercise.

If you have less than 80% correct, you can repeat the 4 day cycle again.

Why shoot for 80% success, and not a complete 100%? 

That’s because you learn all the endings with time anyways. 

It’s much better to spend 2 weeks learning everything to a decent level, than to spend a month trying to perfectly memorize everything.

————–

Do you have any suggestions to make this page more useful? Let me 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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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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