The Instrumental Case in Russian

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Practice this lesson with interactive exercises:

In this lesson, you will learn everything you need to know about the Instrumental Case.

To make things easier, I will divide this lesson into four parts:

  1. Nouns in the Instrumental Case;
  2. Situations in which the Instrumental Case is used;
  3. Adjectives in the Instrumental Case;
  4. Possessive Pronouns in the Instrumental Case.

If there is any specific part of the lesson you would like to study first, feel free to click on the above titles and go straight to that part of the lesson.

In this lesson, we won't discuss the Instrumental Case in the plural because there is already a complete lesson about this subject here at Mighty Languages.

Instrumental Case in the Plural

Nouns in the Instrumental Case

Nouns in the Instrumental Case take five different endings: ом, ем, ой, ей and ю.

Let’s take a look at them one by one.

1) ОМ

When masculine nouns end in a consonant, add ОМ:

  • студент – студентом (student)
  • врач – врачом (doctor)
  • друг – другом (friend)
  • компьютер – компьютером (computer)

Note that you can click on all the underlined words to see their meanings, examples, cases and conjugations in our dictionary.

When neuter nouns end in О, add М:

  • письмо – письмом (letter)
  • утро – утром (morning)
  • лето – летом (summer)

2) ЕМ

When masculine nouns end in Й and Ь, replace these letters with ЕМ:

  • учитель – учителем (teacher)
  • музей – музеем (museum)
  • герой – героем (hero)

When neuter nouns end in Е, add М:

  • море – морем (sea)
  • поле – полем (field)

3) ОЙ

When feminine and masculine nouns end in А, replace А with ОЙ:

  • ручка – ручкой (pen)
  • мама - мамой (mom)
  • машина – машиной (car)
  • дедушка – дедушкой (grandfather)

There is a small exception, though. If the last syllable of the noun is not stressed and the last consonant is ж, ш, щ or ц, you will add ЕЙ instead of ОЙ:

  • улица – улицей (street)
  • крыша – крышей (roof)

4) ЕЙ

When masculine and feminine nouns end in Я, replace Я with ЕЙ:

  • тётя – тётей (aunt)
  • Настя – Настей (Nastya)
  • дядя – дядей (uncle)

5) Ю

When feminine nouns end in Ь, add Ю:

  • ночь – ночью (night)
  • тетрадь – тетрадью (notebook)
  • осень – осенью (autumn)
  • кровать – кроватью (bed)

And those are all the patterns you need to know in order to use singular nouns in the Instrumental Case.

I know it’s scary to look at all these rules, but you don’t have to memorize all of them at once.

Try and practice your Russian on a regular basis and you will naturally feel when to use each of the endings.

Probably you noticed that the endings we add to nouns depend on whether the noun in masculine, feminine or neuter.

If you are not familiar with the concept of gender in Russian, you can check out our complete lesson about it clicking here.

We also have special forms for personal pronouns in the Instrumental Case. Here is a table with all the pronouns:

Pronouns in the Instrumental Case in Russian

Now, let’s learn the situations in which we use the Instrumental Case.

When and how to use the Instrumental Case

The Instrumental Case in Russian is used mainly in five situations.

1) The Instrumental Case to indicate the instrument of an action

As the name of the case suggests, the Instrumental Case is used to indicate the instrument of an action.

For example:

  • Я пишу ручкой.
  • (I write with a pen)
  • Я ем ложкой.
  • (I eat with a spoon)

In these sentences, ручка and ложка are instruments.

To indicate an instrument in English, we normally use the preposition with.

In Russian, however, no preposition is used. Instead, we put the noun into the Instrumental Case.

2) The Instrumental Case with Prepositions

The Instrumental Case is used with prepositions in two situations:

  1. With the preposition С
  2. With some prepositions of place

Let’s start with the preposition С, which has two meanings: with and from.

You have to be careful because we use the Instrumental Case with the preposition С only in the meaning of with.

When the meaning of the preposition С is from, we use the Genitive Case.

If you don’t know how to use the Genitive Case yet, you can check out our complete lesson about it clicking here.

Here are some examples:

  • Я разговариваю с другом.
  • (I'm talking with a friend)
  • Он живёт с женой.
  • (He lives with his wife)

Now, let’s move on to the prepositions of place.

These are the prepositions of place that are used with the Instrumental Case:

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

There is no secret here. Whenever you use any of these prepositions to tell the location of something, you will put the noun into the Instrumental Case.

For example:

  • Над кроватью висит картина.
  • (There is a painting above the bed)
  • Под столом лежит кот.
  • (There is a cat under the table)
  • Перед диваном стоит телевизор.
  • (There is a TV in front of the sofa)
  • За домом стоит машина.
  • (There is a car behind the house)
  • Между машиной и деревом лежит собака.
  • (There is a dog between the car and the tree)

3) Verbs followed by a noun in the Instrumental Case

In Russian, there are some verbs that are always followed by the Instrumental Case. All you have to do is try and memorize these verbs as you practice your Russian.

Here are the most common Russian verbs that are used with the Instrumental Case:

  • быть (to be)
  • стать (to become)
  • работать (to work as)
  • заниматься (to do / to be engaged in)
  • интересоваться (to be interested in)
  • пользоваться (to use)
  • гордиться (to be proud of)
  • оказаться (to turn out to be)
  • пахнуть (to smell)

Let's take a look at some sentences:

  • Я хочу стать учителем.
  • (I want to become a teacher)
  • Он был президентом.
  • (He was the president)
  • Он работает инженером.
  • (He works as an engineer)
  • Пётр занимается политикой.
  • (Peter is engaged in politics)
  • Торт пахнет шоколадом.
  • (The cake smells of chocolate)
  • Я пользуюсь телефоном.
  • (I use a phone)
  • Мать гордится сыном.
  • (The mother is proud of her son)
  • Я интересуюсь музыкой.
  • (I am interested in music)

Note that in the present tense in Russian, the verb быть (to be) is omitted. When this happens, the noun takes the Nominative Case.

We use the Instrumental Case only when the verb быть is not omitted. For example:

  • Я учитель.
  • (I’m a teacher)
  • Я был учителем.
  • (I was a teacher)
  • Я буду учителем.
  • (I will be a teacher)

4) The Instrumental Case with the passive voice

Passive Voice is an advanced subject, so I think it will be easier to understand how the Instrumental Case is used with it by taking a look at some English sentences first:

  • The letter was written by the boy
  • The house was built by the bricklayer

In the above sentences, we use the preposition by to indicate who did the action, right?

When you have this situation in Russian, you don't need any preposition. All you have to do to indicate who did the action is use the Instrumental Case.

For example:

  • Письмо было написано мальчиком.
  • (The letter was written by the boy)
  • Дом был построен каменщиком.
  • (The house was built by the bricklayer)

5) The Instrumental Case in certain time expressions

When talking about time, we mostly use the Instrumental Case in two situations:

1) To talk about parts of the day:

  • Я учусь утром.
  • (I study in the morning)
  • Он не работает днём.
  • (He doesn’t work in the afternoon)
  • Моя семья любит смотреть фильмы вечером.
  • (My family loves watching movies in the evening)
  • Он никогда не спит ночью.
  • (He never sleeps at night)

2) To talk about seasons:

  • Зимой всегда идёт снег.
  • (It always snows in the winter)
  • Весной цветы очень красивые.
  • (Flowers are very beautiful in the spring)
  • Летом дети играют на улице.
  • (Kids play outside in the summer)
  • Осенью листья становятся жёлтыми.
  • (Leaves turn yellow in the autumn)

Note that, in all these sentences, the noun that indicates the period of time is in the Instrumental Case.

Now that you know the main situations in which we use the Instrumental Case in Russian, let’s take a look at adjectives.

Adjectives in the Instrumental Case

Adjectives in the Instrumental Case are used in the same situations as nouns, but they are much simpler.

In total, there are only four endings for you to memorize: ым, им, ой and ей.

Let’s take a look at when we should use each of these endings.

1) Adjectives with masculine nouns

When adjectives end in ЫЙ and ОЙ, replace these endings with ЫМ:

  • новый телефон – новым телефоном
  • (a new phone)
  • молодой человек – молодым человеком
  • (a young person)
  • старый друг – старым другом
  • (an old friend)

Note that when the last consonant of the adjective is к, г, ш, щ, ч, ж and х, the adjective takes the ending ИМ instead of ЫМ:

  • большой дом – большим домом
  • (a big house)
  • дорогой телефон – дорогим телефоном
  • (an expensive phone)
  • чужой человек – чужим человеком
  • (a stranger)

When adjectives end in ИЙ, replace ИЙ with ИМ:

  • синий карандаш – синим карандашом
  • (a blue pencil)
  • хороший брат – хорошим братом
  • (a good brother)
  • русский человек – русским человеком
  • (a Russian person)

2) Adjectives with neuter nouns

When adjectives end in ОЕ, replace the ending with ЫМ:

  • новое платье – новым платьем
  • (a new dress)
  • доброе утро – добрым утром
  • (good morning)
  • знакомое лицо – знакомым лицом
  • (familiar face)

The same spelling rule is applied in this situation. We use ИМ when the last consonant of the adjective is к, г, ш, щ, ч, ж and х:

  • большое окно – большим окном
  • (a big window)
  • тихое море – тихим морем
  • (a quiet sea)
  • дорогое платье – дорогим платьем
  • (an expensive dress)

When adjectives end in ЕЕ, replace ЕЕ with ИМ:

  • летнее платье – летним платьем
  • (a summer dress)
  • хорошее место – хорошим местом
  • (a good place)
  • синее небо – синим небом
  • (a blue sky)

3) Adjectives with feminine nouns

When adjectives end in АЯ, replace АЯ with ОЙ:

  • старая квартира – старой квартирой
  • (an old apartment)
  • красивая девушка – красивой девушкой
  • (a beautiful girl)
  • светлая комната – светлой комнатой
  • (a light room)

Here we have a different spelling rule. When the last consonant of the adjective is ч, ш, щ, ж and ц and the last syllable is not stressed, the adjective takes the ending ЕЙ instead of ОЙ:

  • хорошая книга – хорошей книгой
  • (a good book)
  • горячая вода – горячей водой
  • (hot water)
  • свежая клубника – свежей клубникой
  • (fresh strawberries)

When adjectives end in ЯЯ, replace ЯЯ with ЕЙ:

  • зимняя куртка – зимней курткой
  • (a winter jacket)
  • ранняя весна – ранней весной
  • (early spring)
  • вечерняя передача – вечерней передачей
  • (an evening program)

Possessive Pronouns in the Instrumental Case

Here are the forms of possessive pronouns in the Instrumental Case in Russian:

MasculineFeminineNeuterPlural
myмоиммоеймоиммоими
yourтвоимтвоейтвоимтвоими
hisегоегоегоего
herеёеёеёеё
ourнашимнашейнашимнашими
yourвашимвашейвашимвашими
theirихихихих

Note that the third person pronouns его, её and их never change (his, her and their).

You will use these pronouns in the same five situations you have just learnt.

For example:

  • Она разговаривает с моим братом.
  • (She is talking with my brother)
  • Он был за твоим домом.
  • (He was behind your house)
  • Маша пользуется моим компьютером.
  • (Masha uses my computer)

And that’s all you need to know in order to use the Instrumental Case in Russian.