According to my dictionary (Kenneth Katzner, link):

вреди́ть v.impfv. [pfv. повреди́ть; pres. врежу́, вреди́шь] (with dat.) to harm; damage; be injurious to.

I think I should use the dative case after this verb. BTW, the повредить entry basically directed me to the вредить entry. Because of 'feeling cold' or indirect objects, I can see why one would use the dative. But my friend from Kiev said to use the accusative.

So, should I use the accusative for inanimate objects and the dative for animate objects? For example :

I accidentally damaged one of my bedroom windows.

Я случайно повредил одному из окон своей спальни. ... или... Я случайно повредил одному из окон в своей спальне.

and for animate beings...

I accidentally damaged one of my plants in my garage.

Я случайно повредил одному из растений в своём гараже.

Side question: Is there a reference for what cases nouns take after certain verbs? I usually rely on my dictionary, but sometimes that fails, and I don't want to ask what basically amounts to the same question for several different verbs.


3 Answers 3


This verb can take both the accusative and the dative, but its meaning depends on the case used.

повредить кому-нибудь (чему-нибудь) means "to hurt or harm smb./smth.", as opposed to "to help smb./smth.". This is about indirect, circumstantial or long-term damage.

повредить что-нибудь means "to damage something". This is rarely, if ever, used with animate objects, and means directly inflicting damage as the immediate result of an action.

  • Не заправляй автомобиль некачественным бензином, не то повредишь двигателю.

    Don't fill up your car with low quality gas. This will hurt the engine.

This is about long-term damage. If you fill your car with low quality gas, it likely won't stall or damage the engine immediately, but will shorten its life if you continue to do it.

  • Не заправляй дизельный автомобиль бензином, не то повредишь двигатель.

    Don't fill up your diesel car with gasoline. This will damage the engine.

This is about immediate damage. If you fill a diesel car with gasoline, you'll damage the engine and will have to tow the car to the garage.

In both your examples, you used the word "damaged", which means your friend was right and you have to use the accusative here: повредил растение. This would mean that you broke or burned it, or inflicted some other kind of immediate damage.

If you were to say that you hurt your plant, as in keeping it away from sunlight or if you keep forgetting to water it, then you should have used the dative: повредил растению.

  • I was not expecting the meaning to change with the case of the noun, instead of something maybe more typical such as aspect... interesting!
    – nate
    Jun 28, 2018 at 3:18
  • 1
    Не заправляй дизельный автомобиль бензином, не то повредишь двигатель автомобиля и тем самым повредишь владельцу автомобиля. // the verb was duplicated here to reflect the shift of the meaning, and to avoid humorous effect like "за окном шёл снег и рота красноармейцев"
    – Arioch
    Jun 28, 2018 at 8:17
  • 2
    @Arioch en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeugma_and_syllepsis
    – Quassnoi
    Jun 28, 2018 at 9:21

1. In addition to Quassnoi's reply, it can be said that повредить + the dative WITHOUT the accusative (unlike in my example below) means to (cause/inflict) harm, whereas повредить + the dative WITH the accusative (like in my example below) means to damage

In my experience in terms of to (cause/inflict) harm (that is without a direct object) it is the perfective form НАвредить of the verb вредить which is used more frequently, rather than ПОвредить.
In the imperfective aspect, the verb always has the meaning of to (cause/inflict) harm and can't incorporate a direct object, thus being intransitive.

Now the verbs вредить & навредить form an imperfective/perfective pair of the same intransitive verb.

повредить on the other hand, despite partially overlapping with them in meaning, can be transitive and has its own imperfective form повреждать which semantically sets it apart from the above mentioned pair.

To me, the data in the dictionary from which the screen shot is taken, indicating повредить as the perfective form of the verb вредить, seems inaccurate.

There are many verbs with multiple case governance, depending on the type of their relationship to an object. It's only in relation to a DIRECT object that transitive verbs govern the accusative (and sometimes the genitive).

Повредить can take at least three objects in one sentence:

Во время задержания полицейские повредили дубинкойindir. object, Inst. плечоDIR. OBJECT, ACC. демонстрантуindir. object, Dat.


Is there a reference for which case of nouns go with which verbs?

There's one such reference I'm aware of: "Словарь сочетаемости слов русского языка" by П. Н. Денисова, В. В. Морковкина (it's available online as a pdf. The exact address is googleable.)

  • good answer that adds even more nuance than I was expecting...
    – nate
    Jun 28, 2018 at 3:19
  • I've been thinking about your sentence. Why not демонстранта? If seems its role as indirect object is rather... distant, especially seemingly backseat to its role as a possessor of плечо.
    – nate
    Jul 10, 2018 at 4:37
  • 1
    @nate good question, these are just two different ideas, in your suggestion the emphasis falls on плечо making it into something autonomous apart from демонстрант, while turning демонстрант into a feature of плечо, which sounds somewhat absurd because our focus is on a person rather than their body parts, it's a person who suffered injuries, which affected their certain pody parts, this is the import of my phrasing, which is idiomatic for Russian, the questions что? кому? both are perfectly valid for the verb повредить Jul 10, 2018 at 18:50

Is it really necessary for someone learning Russian to dive so deep into these nuances? Повредить takes, in most cases, the accusative, and, in most cases, is used with inanimate objects. Like:

Повредить окно, повредить двигатель, повредить плечо, повредить растение.

Я случайно повредил одно из окон в своей спальне

I personally don't think you can say 'повредить двигателю', but rather 'повредить двигатель' or 'навредить двигателю'.

For animate objects, use 'навредить' with the dative case. For example: 'Навредить человеку, навредить животному, навредить здоровью(inanimate)'

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.