Categories: "Prepositions"

В (location)

by Don  

The most common word for “at” in Russian is в followed by the prepositional case:

— Где мама?
— Она в магазине.
“Where's Mom?”
“She is at the store.”
— Где Лена?
— Она занимается в библотеке.
“Where is Lena?”
“She is studying at the library.”
Дети любят играть в парке. Children love to play at the park
Давай встретимся в бассейне. Let's meet at the pool.

But в can often be translated as “in”:

Молоко в холодильнике. The milk is in the refrigerator.
— В чём живёт улитка?
— В ракушке.
“What does a snail live in?”
“In its shell.”
Летучие мыши спят днём в пещерах. Bats sleep in caves during the day.
Почему в моём пупочке столько пуха? Why is there so much fuzz in my bellybutton?

If you are an English speaker, your intuition will be a good guide as to when to translate в as in and when as at. Pity the poor Russian speaker, though, who has to figure out the difference in English.

В can also be used to indicate emotional states:

Он это сказал в гневе. Не принимай его слова всерьёз. He said that in anger. Don't take his words seriously.
Я весь день бегал в панике, то туда, то сюда. I ran around here and there all day long in a panic.
Я был в полном шоке, когда меня уволили. I was in complete shock when they fired me.
Когда загораю на пляже, я чувствую себя в полном блаженстве. When I'm soaking up the sun on the beach, I am in complete bliss.


by Don  

The preposition за has multiple meanings and is used with several cases. One of those meanings is in sentences where someone goes somewhere to purchase something, where it is used with the instrumental case:

Я зашёл в киоск за сигаретами. I went to the kiosk for cigarettes.
Я пошёл в булочную за хлебом. I went to the bakery for bread.

The preposition doesn't necessarily imply purchasing.

Алёна зайдёт к маме за книгой, которую она забыла на днях. Alyona will drop by her mom's place for the book that she left there a few days ago.
Витя, забеги к соседу за гаечным ключом, который он у меня взял на прошлой неделe. Vitali, run over to the neighbor's place for the wrench that he borrowed from me last week.
Я заехал в клинику за вакциной от сибирской язвы. I dropped by the clinic for anthrax vaccine.

It can also be used for picking someone up on the way somewhere:

Я зайду за тобой в восемь часов, и мы вместе пойдём в кино. I'll come by for you at eight o'clock, and we will go to the movies together.
Она заехалa за мной в семь часов, и мы поехали к её тёте на день рождения. She came by to pick me up at seven o'clock, and we went to her aunt's place for [the aunt's] birthday party.

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