In the following sentence,

  • why don't we use the infinitive - играть?

  • What is the logic behind игре?

Я Учу игре на гитаре.

3 Answers 3


The verb "учить" in the meaning "to teach, to instruct" can be used with dative case:

Я учу игре на гитаре - I teach how to play guitar (literally: I teach playing the guitar).

Я учу английскому языку - I teach the English language.

  • why игре , not играть?
    – xpr34
    May 10, 2017 at 9:43
  • Ehm, ask the person who says this. There is no difference, except that "учу игре" sounds a bit bookish.
    – Abakan
    May 10, 2017 at 9:46
  • @xpr34 Both variants are correct. Just as you might say "I teach math to students" (noun) or "I teach students to solve math problems" (verb). May 12, 2017 at 21:29
  • You might want to point out that игре is the dative case of the noun игра and a word-to-word translation would be I teach the play on the guitar.
    – Arsak
    May 13, 2017 at 9:26

"Я учу играть на гитаре" is grammatical, but sounds a bit awkward to me. The sentence feels like it is missing an object: "Я учу его играть на гитаре" - "I am teaching him to play the guitar" sounds better.

So I would use the dative when saying that I teach how to play the guitar in general, and the infinitive when saying that I am teaching somebody how to play the guitar.

Edit: Come to think of it, if you use преподавать, which is the other word for "teach", then it may sound better, and you can use the nominative case:

Я преподаю игру на гитаре.

Я преподаю вождение машины.

  • играть = verb, игра= nominative noun , игре = dative noun . How do we obtain nouns from verbs, like obtaining игра from играть ? For example; how can we say "I teach how to use the internet / how to drive a car / how to cook / how to live healthy. ?
    – xpr34
    May 12, 2017 at 6:05
  • 1
    This sounds like a separate question. :) There may not always be a straight-forward mapping from a verb to a noun. For these specific examples: Я учу пользованию интернетом (although this one sounds odd, but I guess it is acceptable these days), ... вождению машины, приготовлению еды / готовке , ... здоровому образу жизни.
    – Dima
    May 12, 2017 at 17:21
  • @xpr34: historically what is now infinitive form of verbs started as a dative form of nouns, in English and Russian alike. If you look really close at phrases: "I come from New York to London" and "I come from New York to help" and remember that one of the functions of dative was marking direction, you can see it pretty clearly.
    – Quassnoi
    May 12, 2017 at 19:17

The logic of choice between verb compliment VS noun compliment is two-fold.

First, a choice between a noun and a verb (in a language where such a choice is possible) depends on a speaker's modal attitude towards an action described by a noun or a verb.

When a speaker regards the action as something pleasant or likable, or that what (s)he would like to be continued, (s)he is most probably to use a verb (this doesn't always work as a rule for languages where a choice of a verbal or a nominal form is grammatically mandatory).

When a speaker has and idea of the action described as of neutral or less pleasant or likable, (s)he is most likely to use a noun (also comprising adjectives in its broader sense).

Second, in Russian language the logic is based on Fenno-Ugric substrate. Both

Both Учу(сь) игре на гитаре and Учу(сь) играть на гитаре are equally grammatical. The difference is a) like in the first example and b) specific.

The specific difference is that Russian Dative could be compared to Fenno-Baltic Ablative or Illative.

In Russian, nominal and verbal complements in this structure (I am not sure if there are other examples of it apart from those with учить) are usually mutually interchangeable:

Учу резьбе по дереву. => Учу (вы)резать по дереву.

Учу ковке металла. => Учу ковать металл.

Учу французкому. => Учу говорить по-французски.

Sometimes, however, the forms are not interchangeable. This usually happends when a nominal compliment (also comprising adjectives in its broader sense) takes a predicative form, or that of an adjective.

Учу быть собой.

Учу хорошему / плохому / вредному / полезному.

  • Is there any proof for what you state in the 3rd and 4th paragraphs of your answer, or is it how you just feel it?
    – Yellow Sky
    May 10, 2017 at 15:00
  • The comment requires too broad an answer and is therefore non-constructive and against the rules of this site. Morover; in the context of this text, 'a proof' IS the very thing 'how I feel'. Point.
    – Manjusri
    May 10, 2017 at 15:51
  • Ok, I see that you think asking questions is against the rules of this site. :D
    – Yellow Sky
    May 10, 2017 at 16:47
  • No, it's not OK and you are a poor mind-reader, as I can see,
    – Manjusri
    May 10, 2017 at 18:30
  • @Manjusri I have to ask you to tone down. Again.
    – shabunc
    May 10, 2017 at 23:16

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