In Nicholas J Brown's book, The New Penguin Russian Course, in chapter 27, I see the sentence,

In all the books written by this author before 1939 there are interesting women.

Во всех книгах, написанных (prep. pl.) этим (instr. sing. m.) автором (instr. sing. m.) до 39-го года, есть интересные женщины.

Only the "(prep. pl.)" was provided by the book, but this is the case I don't understand. Plural because what was written were books.

But why prepositional?

Instrumental would denote who wrote them, i.e. 'with' or 'by' so the last part of the sentence makes sense.

Contrast this with the sentence,

In our shops it is difficult to find books written by modern Russian writers.

В наших магазинах трудно найти книги, написанные современными российскими писателями.

It seems that both participles share the same role, yet this one is also not instrumental....?

  • 1
    It seems you're confused about the part of the sentence to which preposition В relates being fixated on the noun книги, in the 2nd sentence the noun магазинах is inflected identically to книгах in the 1st one, because В governs them both, in the 2nd one the preposition isn't connected to the noun книги which is governed with the verb найти instead Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 17:29
  • That is now crystal clear - my difficulty is, here, and usually, figuring out the role/case to use. Perhaps due to my still limited knowledge of the role of cases...
    – nate
    Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 17:52
  • not sure how easy it is to comprehend for a foreigner whose language doesn't have cases, but on my part i can say that the role of cases in synthetic languages, and it's a linguistic fact, is the same as the role of prepositions in analytical languages, which is establishment of relationships between nouns and verbs... Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 18:25
  • there're languages in which relationships between nouns and verbs are only governed by cases without prepositions, and they have a lot more cases than Russian, Russian and many other synthetic languages on the other hand have both, in majority of situations its cases are steered by prepositions, the most obvious situations where they aren't would be relationship of direct object in both Accusative and Genitive, of possession denoted with Genitive, of transfer and receipt denoted with Dative and of utilization denoted with Instrumental - apology if i just blabed out a bunch of truisms Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 18:39
  • no, its all good - very fascinating stuff, unfortunately over my head :)
    – nate
    Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 18:53

1 Answer 1


Let’s remove non-essential words so you can clearly see that in both cases the declension of the word “написанные” matches the grammatical role of the word “книги”:

В (каких?) написанныхPREP (чём?) книгахPREP есть женщины.

Трудно найти (какие?) написанныеACC (что?) книгиACC.

The actual meaning of the word “написанный” and its correspondence with English “by someone” is irrelevant. An adjective like “интересный” would behave exactly the same. What matters is the role of the word “книги”, and that’s what differs between those sentences.

  • So the case is governed just like the relative clause constructed with который....... (I'm learning participles at the moment)
    – nate
    Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 17:15
  • 2
    @nate No, the word “который” declines according to its role in the clause. So it’s “книги, которые (acc.) я читал”, “книги, которых (gen.) у меня нет” etc. regardless of the role of the word “книги” in the main sentence. Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 17:19

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