I've come across these two set expressions, but I don't understand the cases that are used here.

во хмелю — why is the preposition "в" being used with the ending "ю"—is this a partitive of some kind ?

с похмелья — is this the genitive case?

What are the literal translations of these phrases?

Edit: Ok, so I just found out that there's a verb хмелить, but what's the purpose of the "в" here?

5 Answers 5


Хмель "hop, Humulus lupulus" is a widely used if partially obsolete synecdoche for inebriation. I've never come across the verb хмелить but you might mean хмелеть "to become drunk". Похмелье, literally "after-хмель", is hangover. There is a similar idiomatic use of с in the adverbialised спросонья "freshly awake, groggy". Yes, it's genitive; the literal meaning of с+genitive is ablative — it's a reverse на+accusative in the same way as the elative из complements the illative в+accusative.

Regarding the ending on во хмелю (a somewhat obsolete way to say "drunk"): not partitive, but locative. There's a limited set of almost exclusively monosyllabic masculine nouns that have two forms of the prepositional case; a regular one and an -у/-ю one. The latter is always accented, and used with в and на (never о) when these prepositions refer literally to a location.

This "literally" may not make a lot of sense here, considering хмель is inherently an abstraction, but here's a classic illustration of the distinction that may make it a little clearer:

Вороны что-то ищут в снегу

"the crows are searching for something in the snow" vs.

Художники что-то ищут в снеге

"artists search for something in snow" (i.e. some aesthetic je ne sais quoi in snow that they're trying to capture.)

  • 1
    Хмель is a synecdoche for "booze" but not for "inebriation". It's a metonymy but not a synecdoche.
    – Quassnoi
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 15:38
  • Ok, cool, thanks)) в хмелью makes a lot of sense actually—"In the hop(s)" would easily mean to an English speaker that one is drunk. But I've never seen the ю ending on the locative case. I have seen у a lot—в жиру, в тазу, в снегу итд. But how generalizable is this rule? Does it apply to every one syllable masculine noun? And I'm not sure I get the difference between в снегу/ в снеге. I thought they were identical just у is a different ending for one syllable masculine nouns.
    – VCH250
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 19:20
  • Moreover, I thought в снеге is incorrect at any time??) Shouldn't your last sentence be "Художники ищут что-то, которое в снегу." Thanks for any help)
    – VCH250
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 19:23
  • 1
    @CoreyRoberts-Reynolds The word "хмель" ends in a soft "l", so there's "ю" to keep it soft in locative (во хмелю = vo khmel'u). Note that there's no more soft sign "ь" here, as "ю" did this work already.
    – Matt
    Commented Jul 25, 2015 at 6:31
  • @CoreyRoberts-Reynolds Locative is usually about physical location only (although "во хмелю" sems to be an exception here). That is "Художники ищут что-то в снегу" actually means that some guys are digging in the snow with their hands or spades :-)
    – Matt
    Commented Jul 25, 2015 at 6:34

This would be discussion about в/во prepositions

во хмелю, хмель is not a verb here but a noun meaning hop. The whole phrase во хмелю means he is drunk. It is hardly used in big cities, most likely only in a country side.

с похмелья means he has a hang-over. Another variation of this: У тебя похмелье? / Ты с похмелья? - У него похмелье / Он с похмелья. Which basically have the same meaning.


"Хмель" is just a plant (Humulus) which is used in brewing. So this word has yet another meaning (быть во хмелю = "to be in Humulus" = to be drunk; although this phrase sounds a little archaic - probably you've encountered it in a book; people rarely say so).

"Похмелье" has the same root as "хмель" yet in modern language (due to the part "по-" = "после" = "after") it usually means "hangover" (i.e. "after Humulus"). Yet a couple of hundreds years ago it meant something else, actually - "carousal". Read this topic on a subject - Дружба by Pushkin

Now about a grammar. "С похмелья" is a genitive case. "Во хмелю" is a (rare) locative case (like "в лесу").

  • I found it on AbbyLingvo; It's listed under the noun " хмель"
    – VCH250
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 19:25
  • @CoreyRoberts-Reynolds You mean the form "во хмелю"? Yes, the dictionaries often list those special cases separately. More rarely they add any explanations like "locative", "partitive" etc.
    – Matt
    Commented Jul 25, 2015 at 6:26
  • Yes, it listed that expression. )
    – VCH250
    Commented Jul 26, 2015 at 5:55

The others have given good answers, I'll just elaborate a little on в хмеле / во хмелю

Secondary prepositional forms in -у, -ю (and stressed -ы, -и for some declension I nouns), while technically being prepositional, in fact mean locative.

You should use these forms when в ("in") or на ("on") means "being there", literally.

Let's consider some examples:

Предки Грегори Пека видели в лесе препятствие

Предки Грегори Пека видели в лесу препятствие

Both phrases translate verbatim as "saw in forest (prep.) hindrance (acc.)".

The first phrase means that Gregory Peck's ancestors, the first white settlers in America, treated the forest like a hindrance and burned it to create a patch of arable land.

The second one (constructed by me) means that they were, probably, walking down the forest and saw a hindrance or an obstacle of some kind, maybe a stump or a fallen tree.

We can reword the second phrase as "Gregory Peck's ancestors saw a hindrance while being in the forest", but not the first one.

Hence, we use prepositional proper in the first (лесе, not "being"-like), and locative (лесу, "being"-like) in the second one.

Another example:

В «Мосте Ватерлоо» с Вивьен Ли (Успенская) сыграла русскую преподавательницу балетной школы.

This translates as

(Ouspenskaya) has played a Russian ballet teacher in "Waterloo Bridge" starring Vivien Leigh.

Again, you add "while being" here: the actress played in the film "Waterloo Bridge", but not "while being" on the actual Waterloo bridge. Hence, prepositional proper (мосте).

  • 1
    Good explanation, but I am not fully convinced by the while being rule. No physical presence of the agent is assumed in the phrases like „в бинокль я разглядел в далеком лесу избушку”, or „надо обеспечить ремонт в порту".
    – J-mster
    Commented Jul 25, 2015 at 6:59
  • 1
    @J-mster "While being" is just a simplification, of course. The physical presence of the object (but not the subject), as your examples show, is OK too.
    – Matt
    Commented Jul 25, 2015 at 13:42

Во хмелю is Locative case. I never encountered it being used with хмель. Possibly it means the person is drunk. The standard meaning would be the person is in the brushwood of хмель.

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