In my grammar textbook under the section of time expressions in the Russian language there is a table presented with various types of constructions per case. Under предложный падеж are listed the expressions "за обедом/завтраком/ужином" whilst under творительный падеж are listed the expressions "к обеду/завтраку/ужину".

I wondered what the difference is between these two constructions? As a non-native speaker the meaning seems identical to me. What nuance can be derived between the following sentences for instance?

"приходите к нам за обедом" "приходите к нам к обеду"

  • 1
    The case associated to за in your examples is not предложный, but творительный, and the case associated to к is not творительный, but rather дательный.
    – KCd
    Nov 20, 2022 at 13:14

2 Answers 2


Meanings are different and not even close.

(делать что-либо) за обедом/ужином/завтраком - to do something during that meal (to speak or to watch TV for example).

(сделать что-либо) к обеду/завтраку/ужину - to finish doing something by that time.

Приходите к нам за обедом - come to us to get the dinner (often implied that you will then go away with the food and not stay with us).

Приходите к нам к обеду - come to us to dinner time (just as approximate time, not necessarily to have dinner with us).


"За обедом" is in instrumental case (творительный падеж), not prepositional (предложный). This phrase is most often used as an adverbial and means "во время обеда, обедая" ("during lucn, whilst having lunch").

  • За завтраком, между блюд ― встают и танцуют, и в пять часов, и за обедом, и так до утра.
  • Он проводил много времени за обедом.

Note that it only applies to the actions of somebody who is actually having a meal. So you can't say for example "За обедом к нам пришли гости". Not in this sense, at least, as this clumsy phrase could be misinterpreted as "guests came to get a lunch from us". To understand why instrumental case is used here, you can think of it this way: somebody did something while he was occupied with lunch, "занят (чем?) обедом". Apart from meals, there are not many activities which can be used in a similar way in a sentence. "За игрой", "за уроком", are a few other examples which come to mind.

Much less frequently, "за обедом" could mean "чтобы получить обед" (in order to get a lunch):

  • Я пришла с судками за обедом.

It could also mean "after lunchtime":

  • Вслед за обедом наступали ранние декабрьские сумерки.

"К обеду" is in dative case (дательный падеж), not instrumental (творительный). This phrase can be used in the following ways:

  • Пригласить к обеду. Invite for dinner.
  • Таня проснулась к обеду. Tanya woke up by lunchtime.
  • Время близится к обеду. Lunchtime is approaching.
  • К обеду была вареная говядина. For lunch, there was boiled beef.

"Приходите к нам за обедом" means "come to us to get your lunch/dinner". "Приходите к нам к обеду" means "come to us by lunch/dinner time". I guess what you are actually thinking of is "приходите к нам на обед", which would be "come to us for dinner".

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