||Prepositions Governing the Dative Case
The dative case is associated with motion towards a goal or destination and that meaning is reflected in the only two dative prepositions in Russian: к(о)+Dat and по+Dat. The remainder of the forms often thought to be dative prepositions are in fact participles (благодаря+Dat), adverbs (согласно+Dat), вопреки+Dat), and idiomatized prepositional phrases such as навстречу+Dat, and the marginally used наперекор+Dat. The fact that these phrases are not true prepositions is born out by the fact that н is not inserted before the 3rd person pronouns, его, её, их, when they are used with these pronouns, as it is when they are used with real prepositions, e.g. в нём "in it", у неё "she has, at her place", с них "from them".
|благодаря им||thanks to them|
|согласно ему||according to him/it|
|вопреки ей||despite it/her|
Here is the list of the dative prepositions or preposition-like words and phrases covered on this page.
1. По+Dat. The most prominent preposition governing the dative case is по+Dat. This preposition has no corresponding preposition in English and so it is the most frustrating of all the Russian prepositions for English-speakers to learn. Cataloging all the prepositions in English with meanings corresponding to по+Dat would only thicken the confusion. The best way to master this preposition is to learn the semantic paths it follows. Here they are.
a. Along, Over, On. The basic physical sense this preposition conveys is that of motion on or along a surface. A related meaning is "around" in the sense of moving physically "about", i.e. covering all or a large portion of a surface.
|Ребята бежали по улице.
||The kids ran along the street.
|Самолёт летит по небу.
||A plane is flying across the sky.
|Корабль плывёт по морю.
||The ship is sailing on the sea.
|Белка и заяц гуляют по саду.
||The squirrel and rabbit stroll about the garden.
|Он любит ездить по миру.
||He loves to travel about the world.
b. Identical Times & Places. This preposition is also used to indicate several identical places where or times when an activity takes place.
|Приватизация продвигается по фабикам.||Privatization is progressing among the factories.|
|Она ходила по многим лавкам в поисках книг. ||She went around to many shops, looking for books.
|Мы встречаемся по средам.
||We meet Wednesdays.
|Саша бегает по вечерам.
||Sasha runs evenings.
c. The Distributive. A sense related to the latter is the distributive sense, marked by the English postposition apiece or the preposition per. However, keep in mind that the dative case in this function is used only if the noun agreeing with the preposition refers to one object. If the agreeing noun refers to two or more objects, the accusative case is used with the same preposition, по.
|Папа дал детям по яблоку.
||Dad gave the kids an apple apiece.
|Ребята взяли по билету в кассе.
||The guys got a ticket apiece at the box office.
d. Against : The Thing Struck. По+Dat is also used to indicate the object of blows, sometimes translatable as against, sometimes as on, sometimes simply as the direct object.
|Хрущёв бил ботинком по столу.
||Khrushchev beat the table with his shoe.
|Дождь барабанил по стеклу.
||The rain drummed against the pane.
|Маша Сашу ударила по носу
||Masha hit Sasha on the nose.
e. Specializations. По+Dat is also used to indicate trade and study specializations of various sorts.
|Он специалист по металлу.
||He is a metal specialist.
|У меня экзамен по химии.
||I have an exam in chemistry.
f. Accord(ance). This preposition is also used to indicate something with which another object is in accord. In this sense it is usually translated by according to, in accord(ance) with, after, based on or simply on. However it is translated, its meaning in this function is always "in accord with".
|Аэрофлот всегда летает по расписанию.
||Aeroflop always flies on schedule.
|Фильм снят по рассказу Чехова.
||The film is based on a story by Chekhov.
g. Reason or Cause. Finally, по+Dat may be used to indicate the cause or reason for something.
|Заяц съел орех по ошибке.
||The rabbit ate a nut by mistake.
|По глупости я вошел не в ту комнату.
||Out of stupidity I entered the wrong room.
|Она пропустила лекцию по болезни.
||She missed class because of illness.
2. К(о)+Dat. The preposition к(о)+Dat basically means "towards" or "down/up to". It also has a general meaning of "to" when used with animate nouns, e.g. Мы идём к Ивану "We are going to Ivan's". It is the antonym of от+Gen in either sense.
|Тропинка спускалась к реке.
||The path sloped down to the river.
|Такси подъехало к дому.
||The taxi pulled up to the house.
|Я часто хожу к Дарье.
||I often go to Darya's.
|Он пошёл к себе в комнату.
||He went to his room.
Don't forget that this preposition is also used in time expressions.
3. Despite. The two idiomatized prepositional phrases вопреки+Dat and наперекор+Dat have similar but distinct meanings. The first means "despite" or "in spite of" while the second has a more intense meaning: "in defiance of". Remember that no 'н' is inserted before the 3rd person pronouns when they are the object of the remainder of these forms requiring the dative case.
|Вопреки ему это ей удалось.
||Despite him she succeeded.
|Вопреки трудностям он кончил школу.
||Despite the difficulties he finished school.
|Наперекор советам Дарьи он прыгнул.
||In defiance of the advice of Darya he lept.
4. Thanks to. The verbal adverb благодаря+Dat is used very much like a preposition exactly where we would say thanks to (so-and-so) and therefore presents no problem for the English-speaker learning Russian.
|Благодаря ему ей это удалось.
||Thanks to him she succeeded.
|Благодаря дождю было много грибов.
||Thanks to the rain there were lots of mushrooms.
5. In accord with. Согласно+Dat is another adverb which may be in the process of becoming a preposition with one of the meanings of по+Dat, "according to, in accord(ance) with".
|Согласно решению директора все стали работать.
||In accord with the decision of the director, everyone started to work.
|Согласно правилам нельзя курить в мавзолее.
||According to the regulations you can't smoke in the mausoleum.
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© 1996 Robert Beard