In time expressions, I'm confused whether I'm looking at an adverb or a noun in instrumental case.

For example, летом can be an adverb meaning in summer, or the instrumental case of лето (summer).

And вечером can be an adverb meaning in the evening, or the instrumental case of вечер (evening).

Now take these two sentences:

1) Может быть, они приедут к нам летом.

2) Мы ждём гостей в субботу вечером.

What is the form of летом and вечером?

  • I like your question. For me, it is no difference at all and no one cares. In your sample, I suppose both instances are adverbs. But really, why not a noun? Mar 28, 2016 at 11:04

2 Answers 2


Those are adverbs.

Try replacing the words with a question:

Может быть, они приедут к нам чем?

Мы ждём гостей в субботу чем?

This makes no sense.

However, in a more complex example:

Может быть, они приедут к нам жарким летом

, жарким летом is an adverbial phrase (answering the question когда?) which consists of a noun and an adjective.

  • 1
    Phrase is better, there's no clause
    – V.V.
    Mar 28, 2016 at 13:02
  • @V.V.: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adverbial_clause
    – Quassnoi
    Mar 28, 2016 at 13:14
  • I wonder if you read it.
    – V.V.
    Mar 28, 2016 at 15:23
  • @V.V. my bad, sorry!
    – Quassnoi
    Mar 28, 2016 at 15:44
  • @Quassnoi is there any explanation for why жаркий is used in instrumental case in this adverbial phrase? Thanks Jun 25, 2016 at 15:16

As stated Quassnoi, those are adverbs, and question "чем?" makes no sense. No sense - today. This is by definition of adverbs. But how was adverbs appeared long time ago? There were some meaning words , which was stripped. This is implication. I attempt to reconstruct such words: For example. Может быть, они приедут к нам тогда, когда пора года явится (чем?) летом. Or: ... тогда, когда жизнь природы обернётся\воспринимается (чем?) летом. Or: ... тогда, когда пора воспринимается (чем?) летом\вечером. Thought, it is semanticly correct, but no one say it.

Sorry for my english.

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