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As far as I can tell, the Russian equivalent of the English phrase "to add smb" with regards to social media accounts like Facebook, VKontakte, etc. is "добавлять/добавить в друзья." My question is: why is друзья in the nominative case? Why not в друзей? Is it because друзья isn't being used to mean "friends" in the animate sense of "intimate acquaintances," but instead has taken on a second meaning -- "friends list" -- which would be inanimate and thus not change its form in the accusative case?

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    It means "add someone/something to a generalized object". @добавить в друзей" means "add to an group". – Alexey Nikitin Oct 31 '16 at 6:06
  • > Добавить в друзей = to add into inside of your friends I cannot imagine a non-sci-fi setting where this can be used. – Anixx Oct 31 '16 at 17:25
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You're on the right track, but the meaning is more abstract than "friends list"; it's more like the "state of being a friend" in general. Compare записать в члены общества, вывести в генералы, etc. It seems to be one of the "lesser cases" in Russian (like the partitive-genitive выпить чаю and the locative-prepositional в снегу). I might call it translative-accusative but that's just my own ad hoc term. It's been discussed here: What form is “в гости”?

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I actually disagree with @NikolayErshov on this.

While we indeed have in Russian "small cases" for this particular example it's easier. It's actually because it's short for something like "добавить в [категорию] друзья". The same happens when you, say, adding files for some designated folder - when one says "добавить в "Избранное" - he/she actually intend to say "добавить в [папку] "Избранное".

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  • Why удалить из друзей, then? One would expect the implied category to be implied consistently. – Nikolay Ershov Nov 1 '16 at 4:45

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