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Russian grammar - Expressing a state with the instrumental case

Expressing a state with the instrumental case

The instrumental is used as a predicate when expressing a state.

This is most often used when talking about someone's profession.

The exception is when the sentence uses 'to be' in the present tense. Then the object should be in the nominative.

The verb стать (to become) is frequently used in this context.

Note that the instrumental case is not used when no part of the verb быть appears - ie. in the present tense.

Оля работает врачом.
Olya works as a doctor.


врач means 'doctor' - a synonym for доктор

Когда я жил в Казани, я работал учителем.
When I (male) lived in Kazan I worked as a teacher.


The Tatarstan city of Казань.

Антон сейчас журналист.
Anton is a journalist now.


The instrumental case is not used to express state when using the present tense of the verb 'to be'.

Катя была журналисткой пять лет назад.
Katya was a journalist five years ago.


журналист means 'journalist

журналистка is the feminine form.

Два года назад она была ещё студенткой.
Two years ago, she was still a student.


Он является членом хоккейного клуба.
He is a member of the hockey club.


являться членом is a common way to say 'to be a member of'

член means 'member'

Россия является членом Организации Объединенных Наций.
Russia is a member of the United Nations.


Я был членом школьной команды по плаванию.
I (male) was a member of the school swimming team.


Он учится, чтобы стать учителем.
He is studying to become a teacher.


Благодаря победе он стал героем.
Because of the victory, he became a hero.


Я хочу стать юристом.
I want to become a lawyer.


Катя стала журналисткой пятнадцать лет назад.
Katya became a journalist fifteen years ago.


Он стал президентом, когда ему было всего сорок лет.
He became president when he was just forty years old.


Кем ты хочешь стать?
What do you (informal) want to become?


Я не знаю, кем я хочу стать.
I don't know what (who) I want to become.


В молодости он хотел стать лётчиком.
When he was young, he wanted to become a pilot.


лётчик mean 'pilot' - a synonym for пилот

Когда я был студентом, я хотел стать профессором.
When I (male) was a student, I wanted to become a professor.

студентстудентом & профессорпрофессором

Виктор мечтает стать футболистом.
Viktor dreams of becoming a football player.


Он служил офицером во время войны.
He served as an officer during the war.


служить means 'to serve'

Подобно отцу, я стал капитаном корабля.
Like (my) father, I (male) became a ship's captain.