Usage of the Prepositional Case

 Lesson comments

As you know, the are six cases in Russian. Let’s take a closer look at the prepositional case, which indicates the place or position and is always used with prepositions. This lesson teaches how to form the prepositional when answering "where" questions, then walks through the difference between the prepositions "in" and "on". It also explains a few exceptions to the grammar rules for prepositioinal noun endings.

The second part of this lesson focuses on using the prepositional case to say where someone lives, works or studies.

Answering “where” questions

When you want to find out the place where someone or something is located, the following questions come in handy.

Где он?
 [gdyeh ohn]
Where is he?
Где машина?
 [gdyeh mah-SHI-nah]
Where is the car?
Где студенты?
 [gdyeh stoo-DYEHN-ti]
Where are the students?

These questions are fairly easy to ask. All you need to know is the word "где" (where) and the nominative form of a noun (either singular, or plural). However, you will need to put nouns into the prepositional case when answering the question. The prepositional of nouns is formed by removing the last letter of a singular nominative noun and adding the letter –E. Note that you don't need to remove a letter if a word ends in a consonant.

Nominative singular
(dictionary form)
Remove Add Prepositional case
Masculine nouns



(в) Китае - in China
(на) заводе - on a factory
(в) словаре - in a dictionary
Feminine nouns



(на) работе - at work
(на) земле - on the ground
(в) Москве - in Moscow
Neuter nouns



(на) море - in the sea
(на) окне - on a window-sill

So, next time someone asks you a question about a place or position, make sure to form the prepositional case of a noun and add the preposition НА or В. Here are some examples:

Где он сейчас? Он на работе.
 [gdyeh on see-CHAS? on nah rab-BOH-tyeh]
Where's he now? He’s at work.
Где она сейчас? Она в театре.
 [gdyeh ah-NAH see-CHAS? ah-NAH ftee-AH-tree]
Where’s she now? She’s in the cinema.

Choosing prepositions: В vs. НА

The literal meaning of the preposition B is IN (to be inside of something) and the meaning of the preposition HA is ON (to be on the surface of something). When used in the literal meaning, the prepositions are fairly easy to choose. However, their idiomatic meaning is not always the same as in English.

One general rule to choose the proper preposition for a noun is to use B when talking about a city or a country (в Китае, в Америке, в Москве, в России, в Вашингтоне). In all other cases, the idiomatic usage of prepositions does not follow set rules and should be memorized. This table will help you with several common combinations.

В (in) НА (on, at)
в магазине на пляже
в ресторане на работе
в театре на вокзале
в туалете на почте
в гостинице на рынке
в школе на выставке
в университете     на улице
в аптеке на заводе
в больнице на этаже
в парке на площади

By now, you know the basic grammar rule that nouns in the prepositional case end in –E. Of course, there are several exceptions to the rule. Let’s look at other possible endings used to form the prepositional of nouns.

Exceptions to several feminine nouns

If a feminine singular nominative noun ends in –ИЙ, -ИЕ, -ИЯ or –Ь then its prepositional ending will be -И instead of -E. For example:

Россия – в России
 [rah-SEE-yah - vrah-SEE-ee]
Russian - in Russian
площадь – на площади
 [PLOH-scheet' - nah PLOH-schee-dee]
square - on the square

Exceptions to certain nouns

Certain nouns end in –У when put in the prepositional. The ending –У is always stressed in these words. Here are several common exceptions for you to remember:

Аэропорт – в аэропорту
 [ah-eh-rah-PORT - v ah-eh-rah-pahr-TOO]
aeroport - at the airport
Берег – на берегу
 [BYEH-reek - nah bee-ree-GOO]
bank (of the river) - on the bank (of the river)
Пол – на полу
 [pohl - nah pah-LOO]
floor - on the floor
Шкаф – в шкафу
 [shkahf - fshkah-FOO]
wardrobe - in the wardrobe

Exceptions to unchangeable words

The words like здесь (here), там (there), дома (at home), недалеко (not far), в кино (in the cinema), в гостях (as a guest) do not change when used in the prepositional. For example:

Где Саша? – Саша дома.
 [gdyeh SAH-shah? SAH-shah DOH-mah]
Where’s Sasha? – Sasha’s at home.
Где ваша жена? – Моя жена в кино.
 [gdyeh VAH-shah zhi-NAH? mah-YAH zhee-nah fkee-NOH]
Where’s your wife? – My wife is in the cinema.

Test Yourself

It's now time to put your comprehension to the test. The following exercises are based on the grammr explained in this lesson. If you need help with answers, you can always ask a question on the forum and other Russian language students will be happy to help you.

Test 1. Choose the correct preposition for the following nouns. The nouns are already in the prepositional case. You only need to add a proper preposition.


Test 2. Put the words in the brackets into the prepositional case.

1. Он на …………………… (работа).
2. Мы на ………………………. (улица).
3. Я ………………… (дома).
4. Они в……………………. (Россия) сейчас?
5. Где Маша? Она в ………………………. (университет).
6. Где ты сейчас? Я в ……………………. (Москва).

Next page> Prepositional case usage »

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