Prepositions of place in Russian: how to use them correctly

Using prepositions always makes trouble for students. In Russian it is even more confusing, because it is not enough just to choose the right preposition. You should also put the noun in the right case with this preposition by changing its ending. So, today we will learn how to use prepositions of place and put the noun after them in the right case, in order to make the phrase sound natural.

There are many prepositions of place in the Russian language: в, на, у, из, к, по, над, под, около, возле, вокруг, перед, через, вдоль.  

The most common confusion about using prepositions is the difference between в and на.


В is similar to Engish preposition "in". It also means that someone/something is located inside something/someone, while на is similar to "on" and means that someone/something is located on the surface of something/someone.

Feel the difference:

в шкафу - in the closet (inside)
на столе - on the table (on the surface)

на раковине - on the surface of the sink
в раковине - inside of the sink

Examples with на:

на полу, на диване, на стенах, на потолке, на подоконнике

На окне грязь. There's a dirt on the window.
Я сижу на стуле. - I'm sitting on the chair. (If it is the armchair, so you should say "in": в кресле).


Examples with в:

в стакане, в ящике, в комнате, в кастрюле, в ванне, в ведре
Я кладу вещи в шкаф. - I put my clothes in the closet.
Мы стираем носки в тазу. - We wash our socks in the basin.
В спальне две кровати. - There are two beds in the bedroom.

The preposition "у" means "by" or "next to". For example, у дома means near the house (not inside or on the surface of it), just not far away in distance.

у реки - next to (beside) the river
у дороги - beside the road

Он живет у моря. - He lives by the sea.

Instead of "у" you can also use возле. It means thew same thing.

Около also means "near". But it is used differently. Instead of у дома you can say около дома, but the second one is less common in this situation.

The preposition около is very useful when you want ot say that something/someone is near someone. For example, you should say около/возле него (beside him), not у него, because "у него" means that he has (something). It means an absolutely different thing.

So, you need to be very careful when trying to translate Russian sentences with prepositions. You should really learn from the context. There are thousands of different situations and exceptions. Even if you'll memorize the rules, you might still miss something, because rules don't work in some situations.

Let's discover two more Russian prepositions of place - под (under) and над (above).

For example, underwater is под водой in Russian. Над водой, on the contrary, means above water.

Some other examples of using "под" and "над":

Кот сидит под столом. - The cat is sitting under the table.
Солнце светит над нами. - The sun is shining above us.

Он стоит за мной. - He's standing behind me.