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I found that sometimes in the Russian language, people use the dative case in the accusative case. Here is an example:

как ты мог так поступить со мной?
How could you do this to me?

Here they used the word со, but in the English translation, instead of it saying with me, it says to me. How could this be grammatically correct, and when do you use со instead of just saying меня?

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  • Please post answers in the answers section. Thank you.
    – Quassnoi
    May 1, 2023 at 17:29

5 Answers 5

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Prepositions and cases change their roles all the time, throughout all the languages of the world that have them — and very fast, by linguistics standards.

As an example, the "main" purpose of the English preposition "with" is conveying the meaning of "together, through a joint effort": "I'm meeting with him". But then, it has an additional meaning, "by means of": "I'm eating soup with a spoon".

If you're a native English speaker, it sounds natural to you, but to anyone who doesn't have this in their native language, this sounds weird as hell when they first come across it. What does it even mean? "Me and my spoon, we're eating the soup"? And I'm not even talking about phrasal verbs like "go by, put up with, get around to" etc., which don't have any apparent rhyme or reason, and which you have to learn individually.

Cases can be weird like this as well. In Latin, the "main" purpose of the dative case is to denote the indirect object on the receiving end of some action. But then you have your dativus possessivus, dativus finalis, dativus ethicus and a bunch of other uses of the dative which have nothing in common with "doing something to something". When they say mihi vindicta, literally "vengeance to me", it means "vengeance is mine". This pattern sounds weird to Latin learners.

Even in Russian dialects, patterns like скучать за кем-то (vs. по ком-то / по кому-то), смеяться с кого-то (vs. над кем-то), говорить за что-то (vs. о чём-то) etc. sound confusing to people who are not familiar with them.

Поступать с кем-то is just another verb, whose object needs to be put into a specific case (instrumental) and be used with a specific preposition (с/со) because it has evolved like that over the centuries, and which you have to memorize as is.

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  • This does clear somethings up, but it also leaves me with the same question. You said, that in Russian the Dative case can have more than just the two English meanings. But you didn't clarify on what the other meanings could be. If you would please state them, or maybe you did and I'm just a little lost. But no matter, I would love if you could list every label that the Russian prepostion co could have, so that I may do some further reachech into them. Thank you for the answer though, it did help clarify some aspects of my question! May 1, 2023 at 16:09
  • @Justanidiot: I can't see where in my post I was talking about the Russian dative at all. Unfortunately, listing every meaning that every Russian preposition could convey is beyond both my capabilities and rules of this site. The preposition с and its phonetic variation со can be used with the genitive, accusative and instrumental cases, if it helps, in hundreds of idiomatic meanings. In your example, it's the instrumental.
    – Quassnoi
    May 1, 2023 at 17:27
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Your confusion stems from the fact that you're not seeing the semantics at play in each language in those two sentences.

In English, we say "do something to someone" where someone logically is the indirect (dative, not accusative!) object, recipient of the verb do. However, in Russian, the semantics change; instead of doing something to someone, they act (поступать) a certain way with (с) someone.

In other words, your error here was expecting a dative based on English usage instead of parsing the Russian apart from the English.

Russian:
Как ты мог так поступить со мной?
How you could so act with me?

English:
How could you do this to me?

Same meaning — two different forms of expression.

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  • It is interesting, but to act is not поступать, but to act a certain way, maybe, is close to поступать, because ступать-поступок is belong to "way"= a road of the life. "How could you do this to me?" - дословно "как ты мог сделать это мне", сделать что-то в негативном смысле, причинить вред, например. Как ты мог причинить мне вред? May 1, 2023 at 23:30
  • she has done a kind act to me, - переводят как " она сделала доброе дело для меня". Интересно, что в данном случае an act - существительное с предлогом to, а не глагол. Не уверен, можно ли сделать act -глагол + прелог to. May 1, 2023 at 23:33
  • ACT is actually a verb there. It's related semantically to DO in the sense that it refers to performing an action — doing something.
    – CocoPop
    May 2, 2023 at 12:34
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как ты мог так поступить со мной?

со мной here is in the instrumental case, and as @CocoPop mentioned, it's all about semantics. For example, if I say to someone как ты мог так поступить со мной? it has the connotation of violating trust or breaking the unspoken rules of common decency. Whether you are in a relationship or friendship with someone, you treat that person with a certain kind of behavior (dignity, respect, contempt, etc). The implication is that in their dealings with me, this person has not behaved the way I would expect them to given our relationship to each other. Worth mentioning here is that there is also a way to express the same idea in the dative case in Russian, similar to the English equivalent:

Russian
как ты мог мне такое сделать?

English
How could you do that/such a thing to me?

I don't think there is much difference in the meaning conveyed, except that maybe there is less of a focus on the abstract relationship between the speaker and the person being addressed. Referring to your original question, although I can't think of a Russian variation, there is a slang version in English where we could use the accusative case:

English
How could you do me like that?

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как ты мог так поступить со мной?

Со мной is the instrumental case. (The preposition c(o) combines only with the genitive, accusative, and instrumental, but never with the dative.)

Does this fact somehow change your question?

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  • Thank you for clarifying! But, unfortunally, no, this doesn't answer my question, and I'm still confused on why they used со мной in this sentace, and not just меня. May 1, 2023 at 17:25
  • If you mean меня as an accusative, it is the form for a direct object (he offended me - он обидел меня). To me usually translated into Russian as dative (мне) or another case (для меня, со мной).
    – Atoma
    May 1, 2023 at 17:45
  • Thank you! This helps clear things up a little more. If I may ask for one more answer, when would you use each of these? Could you show me some examples of when someone would use мне, для меня, and со мной? May 1, 2023 at 18:02
  • He came up to me and talked to me. - Он подошел ко мне и поговорил со мной. It sounds like music to me. - Для меня это звучит как музыка. These flowers were brought to me. - Эти цветы принесли для меня.
    – Atoma
    May 1, 2023 at 18:16
  • @Atoma *Эти цветы принесли мне May 1, 2023 at 19:22
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http://feb-web.ru/feb/mas/mas-abc/16/ma332608.htm?cmd=0&istext=1

It's not quite correct to ask why when you study any language. It should be obvious that languages don't copy each other. Just consult a good dictionary and try to memorize the difference. See the example above. There's such a thing as compatibility in any language. A good dictionary usually shows what the right way to use any word is. Your problem is called сочетаемость in Russian.

| с кем-чем. Отнестись к кому-л. как-л., сделать что-л. с кем-, чем-л., по отношению к кому-, чему-л. As you see, you can use the instrumental, and if you add поступить по отношению к кому, чему the dative. Nothing else in this particular meaning (1). So if you want the dative , just say поступил плохо по отношению ко мне, the other variant поступил плохо со мной.

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