My understanding is that на is used to describe an open space or a space with indistinct boundaries.

Clearly that does not describe почта. Is there reason why на is used here or is it an isolated exception?

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    "В почте" means 'in the mail', like 'in the mail I receive every day there are few letters, it's mostly newspapers'.
    – Yellow Sky
    Jan 19, 2016 at 7:20

4 Answers 4


Well, your understanding is not complete, there are some cases when it is not about an open space or space without distinct boundaries. We say also на станции for instance.

In fact, earlier the office itself even in colloquial speech was not почта but почтовая станция or почтовый стан. For instance:

Пора была летняя, жаркая, и я вперед мечтал о том блаженном моменте, когда на почтовой станции смогу напиться чаю. (Д. Мамин-Сибиряк)


На ...ской почтовой станции, куда я прибыл вечером, лошадей не оказалось. (В. Короленко)

I guess at least partially the reason why we say на почте is due to the fact that at first it was just a shorter version of на почтовой станции.


From a grammatical standpoint, I was taught a number of special settings which required на instead of в like кухня, стадион, and почта despite the fact that English speakers say "in the kitchen/stadium/post office" (For a full(er) list of these special settings, look here). So, to be sure, почта is not an "isolated" exception.

As to whether or not there is a reason why this is true, I am not sure. That is probably more of a question for a historical linguist. It is possible that the post office or the kitchen are historically open spaces or spaces where activities took place, and thus take на instead of в.

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    However it should be mentioned that в кухне means the same as на кухне while в почте has a totally different meaning than на почте
    – Abakan
    Jan 19, 2016 at 8:06
  • @Alex.S I think на кухне is more likely to be said of a person, while в кухне is about an object, such as a piece of furniture. But, of course, the difference is great since в почте doesn't even refer to the post office. Jan 19, 2016 at 10:31
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    I think English speakers would say "at the stadium" or "at the post office", not "in", which seems somewhat similar to the difference between «на» and «в».
    – mustaccio
    Jan 19, 2016 at 13:09

Another aspect of it.

In English both at/in prepositions are used with 'post-office', depending on which accent is needed - on the place by its function or on what happens within its building (room). But Russian почта can mean 2 different things: either post-office (or some greater institution) or mail items. So the prepositions на/в correspond to those different meanings. For example, you can say

"в почте этого телешоу попалось письмо от знаменитости"

and that would refer to 'a letter found among numerous mail items'. If one speaks about something inside a post-office, they can't only change the preposition: an addition of another word is needed (в здании почты, в помещении почты). Also, в здании Почтамта, но на Почтамте (same strong attachment of the preposition by function of the place).


This is totally like in English. You say "in the post office". We can also say the same:

in the post office = в почтовом отделении

If you say "in the post" it would most likely mean "in the letter". In Russian a similar construction "в почте" means rather "in the mail" or "in the correspondence"

If one says in English "on the post" I do not know what it would mean, possibly "at the place where people stand for their duties". And given that post office historically was one of such places, you should figure out why in Russian is is acceptable.

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