отобрать у тебя что-то

The preposition у usually refers to something being in someone's possession, so this phrase should literally translate as:

take away your (something/belongings/house/car)

But I wonder if native speakers perhaps see it as:

take away (something/everything/a car) from you

... even though the preposition у, in and of itself, does not have the sense of "from/от"?

  • What is the difference between these 2 English phrases? Because there is almost no difference, for instance, between я отберу твой дом and я отберу у тебя дом, maybe the latter has slightly more emphasis on the fact that the house is really yours and it will be you who will suffer, i.e. on this fact of posession Jul 7, 2018 at 9:10
  • take away from (what's) yours, take away from your possession if that makes any sense, i believe this is indeed Ablative case Jul 7, 2018 at 12:31
  • In у тебя there is no stress that the "thing" belongs to this person. So, it "from someone". Jul 7, 2018 at 19:58
  • @БаянКупи-ка - There's no Ablative case in the systems of English or Russian, you can't use that term while talking about them. Both from you and у тебя answer the question where?
    – Yellow Sky
    Jul 9, 2018 at 12:37
  • @Yellow Sky well formally even Locative isn't recognized in the 'official' system of Russian cases, which nevertheless doesn't preclude its actual existence, but learning language, especially a foreign one, isn't about formalism, it's about understanding and concepts... from you answers the question from whom?, у тебя can answer two questions at whom? (as you seem to acknowledge in your reply) and from whom? Jul 10, 2018 at 18:28

2 Answers 2


The things can be looked at differently, and I'll try to explain it.
I'll begin with another verb, брать у ('take from'). The idea of how the preposition y denotes possession is following: y actually means "near, at", so

у стены means 'at the wall, near the wall'.

That's why

у Петра actually means 'at Peter's'


У Петра есть машина is 'At Peters there's a-car'.

Я брал книги у Петра is something like 'I took books at Peter's.'

And if we speak about отобрать у, it's almost the same, with an interesting exception of the prefix ото- which is a positional variant of the prefix от- derived from the preposition от, 'from'.
What I mean is, this prefix ото- corresponds to the English 'away' in take away from. Since 'away' has almost the same meaning as 'from', it's the English manner of constructing the phrase take away from which looks rather strange, it's almost the same as saying *take from from, while the Russian отобрать у is pretty logical, it's like *from-take at.


у does have the sense of “from”:

4. Указывает на источник получения, приобретения чего-л. Взял книгу у товарища. Отобрали мячик у ребёнка. У соседей раздобыли немного муки. У кого ты это взяла? Сейчас же отдай назад! У кого нам помощи просить? Учись у товарищей. У кого бы взять денег в долг?

Большой толковый словарь

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