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In the following sentence:

Предположим, вечером вы ожидаете гостей. Вы привели дом в порядок, убрали разбросанные вещи, приготовили еду и купили напитки. Всё готово, хотя до прихода гостей остался час. Казалось бы, это отличное время, чтобы сделать что-то другое, однако парадоксальным образом это время не ощущается большинством людей как свободное.

I don't understand why the instrumental phrase большинством людей is used in this sentence. It sounds more appropriate to me to use the dative case here because the sentence would literally mean "That time isn't felt as free to most people", in which case большинству людей becomes the "recipient" or "target" of the action of the verb ощущаться.

But why is the instrumental case used here? Is it because that's what the verb ощущаться takes?

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This sentence is using the passive voice:

  • The pyramids were built by the Egyptians. = The Egyptians built the pyramids.

The instumental case is equivalent to by + noun in English:

  • Это время ощущается большинством людей... = Большинство людей ошущают это время...

Ощущать is a transitive verb, meaning that it governs the accusative case (это время).

A better English translation would be:

  • That time is not perceived as free by most people.
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    Thank you for the answer and I forgot about the rule that it takes the instrumental to denote the agent of an action in the passive voice...
    – Blaszard
    Nov 24, 2021 at 19:01

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