I translated the sentence "You make me happy." to Russian with an online translator. And it translated that as "ты делаешь меня счастливым.". Why is the instrumental case necessary here?

2 Answers 2


Instrumental is always used when talking about being or becoming, with the exception of the copula-less present tense and the shortened form of the adjective.

Some examples:

Я счастлив. Я студент. Я нервный. [sample adjective that has no short form]

Я был счастлив. Я был студентом. Я был нервным.

Я буду счастлив. Я буду студентом. Я буду нервным.

Быть счастливым. Быть студентом. Быть нервным.

Я стал счастливым. Я стал студентом. Я стал нервным. [ditto стану and становлюсь]

Меня делают счастливым. Меня делают студентом. Меня делают нервным.

The last example is, again, the same for all tenses and both aspects.

There are some deviations from these patterns that come across as either bookish or colloquial, but generally, this is one of the core uses of the instrumental. In this function, it's similar (although far from identical) to the dedicated essive case found in Uralic languages.

  • Why is Я был/буду счастлив in nominative case? Commented Jul 13, 2021 at 11:15
  • 1
    @KohjahBreese A thing with short-form adjectives. They don't change. Commented Jul 13, 2021 at 21:17

In terms of Aktionsart, there are two sub-aspects rendered by means of Russian Instrumental Case.

The first one (that is, the Essive) is indeed similar to Essive in most Uralic languages (whenever a presence of sucha a lexical aspect is a case) and refers to a condition of non-permanent state.

The Essive aspect can normally be substituted by a shorter form of an Adjective (similar to that of Polish and not to be confused with archaic participle-like forms, e. g. рад, приглашён, доступен):

Я был счастливым => Я был счастлив / счастливый + a noun. Я буду счастливым. => Я буду счастлив / счастливый + a noun.

The other sub-aspect is Transitive, referring to becoming and/or change. The Transitive sub-aspect cannot be substituted by a shorter adjective form and requires стать / становиться, сделаться. Cf:

Я стану счастлив. => * Я стану счастливый (this just doesn't sound like a good Russian, with or without a nominal compliment).

  • The participle-like forms you list are not at all archaic - or did I misunderstand what you meant there?
    – RomanSt
    Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 16:31
  • They are; cf. the stylistic relevance, especially by different styles in Russian fiction.
    – Manjusri
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 12:23
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    The words рад, приглашён, and доступен are not archaic. Nor is the sentence construction “Я был рад” etc. Did you just mean that their origin as participles is archaic, as in, they’re just adverbs now?
    – Timwi
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 16:11
  • They are, both stylistically (with the exception of "рад", they are more conservative and arcaic in this sense than "приглашённый" and "доступный") and grammatically, because their -д and -н suffixes derive from the same IE stock as their counterparts in modern Romance and Germanic languages (cf. French 'diT(E)', Spanish 'otorgaD@', English 'takeN' / 'haD' and Swedish 'tagiT', 'haDE' / 'haTT', etc.).
    – Manjusri
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 17:31

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