I know that in some cases the predicate is marked by the instrumental, however i still don't see the logic behind it. Does it fulfill a specific grammatical need, or is it just arbitrary and accepted as is? Funny enough I use it correctly and instinctively, and even notice its absence, when people don't use it where it belongs. I just don't know why.

1 Answer 1


Earlier, in the 19th century, the Nominative was more widely used in predicative constructions. In the 20th century the situation changed. There is a number of lexico-semantic clauses show clear case preferences:

Predicate nouns favouring the Nominative case:

  • Nouns of nationality
  • Evaluative nouns (дурак, красавица, весельчак)
  • Semantically bleached nouns, used as modifiers: человек, мужчина, девушка...
  • Temporaly unrestricted states: Ведь он был прекрасный учитель!
  • The subject in presumed known and the predicate subject contributes little: Он был талантливый студент!
  • Pure state, without attention to the current situation and causal relatiionship to other events: Она была красавица, высокомерная и безразличная ко всему.

Predicate nouns favouring the Instrumental case:

  • Nouns of occupation, status and function: доктор, руководитель, председатель...
  • Deverbal and abstract nouns: занятие, чтение, цель, причина...
  • Kinship terms
  • Temporaly restricted states: Три года он работал в Самаре учителем.
  • The individual in question fits a certain definition: Он был самым талантливым студентом из всей группы.
  • Expectations (modal Instrumental): Вот если бы я был американцем!
  • Restricting adjunct or modifier: В этой одежде она казалась писаной красавицей.

There is a good article on this topic on the Internet: http://epubs.surrey.ac.uk/1305/1/fulltext.pdf

  • Thanks. This clarifies its usage, but not it's logic, if any.
    – CocoPop
    Jun 11, 2014 at 14:18
  • The logic is that the Nominative is used with something more or less stable and non-temporal and the Instrumental is used with something temporal and restricted. It is the main semantic difference between these cases. For me it's quite logical because the Nominative case represents something which is stable and names real facts. The Instrumental represents something which is temporal and unstable, it can be changed easily. Jun 11, 2014 at 17:05
  • Yikes! Sorry I asked. But THANKS! :)
    – CocoPop
    Jun 11, 2014 at 23:25

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