Hi brave-hearted student who is trying to explore the Russian language!


After a conversation with a student who started learning Russian recently, I have come to the conclusion that the subject of prepositions is not as easy as it seems. Let’s work it out together!


Take a look at the following six prepositions:


  • ЗА: Behind
  • ПЕРЕД: In front of
  • НАД: Above
  • ПОД: Under
  • В: In
  • НА: On


Are these already familiar to you? Ok, great! Let’s find out how you can use them not only to characterize the position relative to a subject as indicated in the translations above, but also how you can use them in Russian phrases and sentences.


Предлог «ЗА»


This preposition is used with two cases:


Case #1: Ablative case:


The most simple usage for this preposition is to indicate the subject’s position as behind something:

  • «за океаном» (behind the ocean).
  • «за окном» (behind the window).


There is more! It can also mean to follow after, like in a chase:

  • «погонишься за двумя зайцами- ни одного не поймаешь» (If you run after two hares, you will catch neither).
  • «идти в магазин за продуктами» (Go to shop for food products).

Case #2: Accusative case:


We also use the preposition to show the movement behind or outside of something.

  • «Солнце село за гору» (The sun set beyond the mountain).
  • «Сесть за стол» (Sit down at the table).


Sometimes preposition «за» is used when it shows a subject that you can take hold of:

  • «Держать за руки» (Holding hands).


It can also mean “hold” in the metaphorical sense:

  • «Пора браться за дело» (It’s time to tackle the problem).


Here are some more useful phrases to learn that use the preposition «за»:

  • «Брать за душу» (To tug at one’s heartstrings).
  • «Водить за нос» (To fool somebody).
  • «за глаза» (Behind one’s back).


Предлог «ПЕРЕД»


This preposition is used to indicate the position of a subject in front of something else.


With the ablative case:

  • «Стоять перед домом» (Stay in front of the house).


To demonstrate the subject or person you do something for:

  • «Выступать перед большой аудиторией» (perform before a large audience).
  • «Паясничать перед публикой» (to make a fool of yourself before the public).


Another situation to use the preposition «перед» is when you want to indicate the time before something:

  • «Перед тем как уехать из города, он хотел попрощаться с ней» (before leaving the town he wanted to say goodbye to her). Take notice of this set phrase «перед тем как» which is used always before a verb.


Finally, a very positive Russian proverb for you to learn:

  • «Перед смертью не надышишься» (before death you will not be sated with air). It means that it’s impossible to do something at the last moment when you had plenty of time before it. :)


Предлог «НАД»


As you know this preposition indicates the position above:

  • «Над озером стояла луна» (there was a moon above the lake).


It can also be used in the metaphorical sense:

  • «Власть над людьми» (power over people).


Another situation is when you exhibit some feelings, attitude towards somebody:

  • «Шутить над другом» (to make fun of a friend).
  • «Дрожать над ребенком» (shake the child).


An interesting and very common expression that uses this preposition is:

  • «Стоять над душой» (breathe down one's neck).


Предлог «ПОД»


This preposition can be used with both the accusative and ablative cases.


The ablative case is used to determine a position under the subject:

  • «Они жили под одной крышей» (they lived under the same roof).



The accusative case is used when you demonstrate movement under the subject:

  • «Собака залезла под стол» (A dog hid under a table).


Another meaning of preposition «под» is to approximate value:

  • «Ей было уже под сорок» (she has already about forty).
  • «Дело было под вечер» (it was towards the evening).


Some fixed phrases to learn are:

  • «быть не под силу» (beyond the scope).
  • Or vice versa: «быть под силу» (within the power). And remember, we cannot express this phrase in the negative form! ;)


Предлог «В»


You may already know that this proposition shows the position inside the subject, and is used with the prepositional case:

  • «Купаться в реке» (to swim in the river).


And with the accusative case, it is used to indicate the direction of the movement from the inside:

  • «Смотреть в окно» (to look out the window).
  • «Стучать в дверь» (knock at the door).
  • «Влюбиться в одноклассника» (to fall in love with a classmate).


What’s more, preposition «в» is used to demonstrate bringing into some emotional state. For example:

  • «прийти в восторг» (go into raptures).
  • «впасть в отчаяние» (fall into despair).
  • «ввести в заблуждение» (put in the pie).


And finally, a Russian proverb for you to learn:

  • «Друг познается в беде» (a friend in need, is a friend indeed).


Предлог «НА»


While the preposition «на» can be used to indicate the subject’s position as on top of something, is can also be used in the accusative case to indicate the subject an action is directed on:

  • «посмотреть на вошедшего» (look at an newcomer).
  • «произвести впечатление на публику» (leave an impression on the public).


An example of a fixed phrase using this proposition is «Сесть кому-нибудь на шею» (to sit on somebody`s neck). It means to be a burden to somebody, to be dependent on him for care.


In this article we have only discussed six Russian prepositions. In the next article, I would like to discuss the rest of them with you. Most importantly, make sure you understand the material this article is trying to help you with! Please, leave a question or a comment if you want to discuss more about aspects of Russian prepositions.


Good luck!