Foreigners who learn Ukrainian language often are confused why we say:

у до́мі (at home), but на ву́лиці (on a street); у магази́ні (at the shop), but на база́рі (at the market); у музе́ї (at the museum), but на конце́рті (at the concert).

Let’s try to shed some light on it.

Although the meaning of both “у/в” and “на” may be “at,” there is a difference when each preposition is used.

The general rule is:

“У/В” is used with concrete places that have boundaries, walls and some limits, such as

у кафе́ (at the cafe), в університе́ті (at the university), в о́фісі (at the office), у магази́ні (at the shop). Most of the spatial nouns are used with this preposition.

“У/В” comes with closed locations:

у шко́лі (at school), у буди́нку (at house), у кварти́рі (at the apartment), but exceptions: у па́рку (at the park), у лі́сі (in the forest), у гаю́ (in a grove).

У/В is also used with the rooms of а house or an apartment:

у спа́льні (in the bedroom), у за́лі (in the hall), у коридо́рі (in the corridor), but: на/у ку́хні (in the kitchen), на балко́ні (on the balcony).

“На” is used with more abstract nouns, those that do not have clearly defined boundaries, such as events:

на ле́кції (at the lecture), на екску́рсії (on the excursion), на заня́тті, на уро́ці (at the lesson), other abstract nouns such as на телеба́ченні (on the television), на ра́діо (on the radio),

open air locations: на мо́рі (at sea), на о́зері (on the lake), на рі́чці (on the river), на приро́ді (in nature), на база́рі (at the market).

There are charts for you to save:

У/В та наwith geographic names:

“У/В” is used with:

  • continents:

в Європі (Europe), в Азії (Asia), в Африці (Africa),

в Північній/Південній Америці (North/South America)

  • country names:

в Україні (Ukraine), в Італії (Italy), в Австралії (Australia)

  • the names of mountain ranges:

у Карпатах (Carpathians), в Альпах (The Alps), у Родопах (The Rhodopes)

“На” is used with:

  • cardinal directions:

на сході (east), на заході (west), на півдні (south), на півночі (north)

  • island names:

на Балі (Bali), на Гаваях (Hawaii), на Мальдивах (Maldives)

  • country administrative divisions:

на Сумщині (Sumy oblast), на Херсонщині (Kherson oblast),

на Київщині(Kyiv oblast)

  • individual mountains:

на Говерлі (Mount Hoverla), на Евересті (Mount Everest), на Монблані (Mont Blanc)

When you know the rules, do the following task and write the answers down in the comments.

Change the words in the brackets into the Locative Case using the correct prepositions.

  1. Захар живе (Україна), (Київщина).
  2. Він кожен день працює (офіс), а йому хотілося б відпочивати (море).
  3. Захар зараз читає книжку (балкон).
  4. Він не любить читати (спальня).
  5. Кожної суботи Захар ходить (магазин), а іноді – (базар).
1 Comment
  1. Jordan Rennolds October 14, 2022

    Super useful! Mentioning “boundaries” for “у/в” when determining a closed vs open location is very helpful for certain location types such as Countries vs Islands. What is the ruling for an island that is a country such as Madagascar?

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