Prepositions Governing the Accusative Case

*** Prepositions Governing the Accusative Case ***

Let us begin our review of the prepositions governing the accusative case by simply checking out all twelve of them and their general meanings.

Accusative Prepositions
в+Acc (in)to с+Acc about
на+Acc (on)to про+Acc about
за+Acc [to] behind о+Acc against
под+Acc [to] under сквозь+Acc through
по+Acc up to через+Acc through, across

Now let's take a closer look at each of them and see how they work in sentences.

@ The Accusative with Verbs of Motion ***

The accusative case is associated with the direction of a motion, so the most prominent prepositions which demand the accusative case are those prepositions used with verbs of motion to indicate the direction of the motion. Four Russian prepositions govern the accusative case to indicate motion toward a place and either the prepositional or instrumental case to indicate presence at that place.

Accusative with Motion Verbs
Куда? Где? Откуда?
'in, at'
'(out) from'
'on, at'
(down) from
[to] 'behind'
'from behind'
[to] 'under'
'from under'

To indicate the presence of an object at a place, use these prepositions with the prepositional or instrumental cases. Many of these prepositions are used in time expressions as well. За+Acc can also mean "for", the antonym of "against (something)".

Под+Acc has three minor uses aside from indicating direction 'under'.

  1. It can mean "designated for" when used with a verb of motion: этот сарай предзначен под сено "that barn is earmarked for hay".
  2. Под+Acc can also refer to the nature of something artificial or fake: обстановка под орех "artificial walnut furniture".
  3. Finally, it may refer to an approximate time: приходить под вечер "arrive near evening".

@ Other Prepositions Governing the Accusative ***

1. Про+Acc and с+Acc mean "about", but in different senses. Про+Acc means "about" in the same sense as о+ Prep.

Ваня всё говорит о Наташе.
Ваня всё говорит про Наташу.
Vanya talks about Natasha all the time

2. С+Acc is not quite so simple. The most colloquial way of indicating that a number is approximate in Russian is to reverse the number and the noun that it quantifies, for example,

Там было сорок человек.
There were forty people there.
Там было человек сорок.
There were about forty people there.
Пять студентов пришли.
Five students came.
Студентов пять пришло.
About 5 students came.

This creates a problem, though: how does one say "about one", since Russians do not use the number "one" (один) to indicate one thing normally. Одна неделя would usually be taken to mean "a certain week" rather than "one week". Неделя одна means the same thing. To say "about one" in Russian you use the preposition с+Acc, which otherwise indicates approximate number or size:

Она ростом с сестру. She is like her sister in size.
Он пробыл с неделю у нас. He spent about a week with us.
репа с баскетбольный мячa turnip the size of a basketball.
Мальчик с пальчикTom (the size of a) Thumb

3. По+Acc means "up to" in the sense indicating the extent of an object's involvement measured against some other object. Here are some examples.

Она стояла по пояс в воде.She stood in water up to her waist.
Я по шею в работе. I'm up to my neck in work.

По+Acc is also used in the distributive sense of по+Dat when the noun refers to more than one object: Папа дал детям по два яблока/по пятьсот рублей "Dad gave the kids two apples/500 rubles apiece".

4. О+Acc means "against" in the sense of coming in physical contact with another object.

Она ударилась головой о стену. She hit her head against the wall.
Волны били о берег. The waves beat against the shore.
Он опирался о стену. He was leaning against the wall.

5. Сквозь+Acc indicates the object "through" which another passes.

Сквозь туман тускло светила луна. The moon glowed dimly through the fog.
Он всегда смотрит на это сквозь палцы! He always looks through his
(the other way) at that!
Смех сквозь слёзыLaughter through tears

6. Через + Acc has two major functions. The first is to indicate the sense of "through" synonymous with сквозь+Acc, which Russians also use to indicate the path "across" something. In this latter sense it is omissible if accompanying a verb with the synonymous prefix пере- "across".

Они как-то пробрались через лес. They somehow managed to get through the woods.
Я быстро перешёл через улицу. I quickly crossed the street.
Я быстро перешёл улицу. I quickly crossed the street.

Через+Acc is also used in time expressions to indicate the duration of time before the beginning of an action. Click here for an explanation.

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© 1996 Robert Beard