Abstract: The followiing estimate for the Rayleigh--Ritz method is proved: $$ | \tilde \lambda - \lambda | |( \tilde u , u )| \le { \| A \tilde u - \tilde \lambda \tilde u \| } \sin \angle \{ u ; \tilde U \}, \ \| u \| =1. $$ Here $A$ is a bounded self-adjoint operator in a real Hilbert/euclidian space, $\{ \lambda, u \}$ one of its eigenpairs, $\tilde U$ a trial subspace for the Rayleigh--Ritz method, and $\{ \tilde \lambda, \tilde u \}$ a Ritz pair. %$\| u \| = \| \tilde u \| = 1.$ This inequality makes it possible to analyze the fine structure of the error of the Rayleigh--Ritz method, in particular, it shows that $ |( \tilde u , u )| \le C \epsilon^2, $ if an eigenvector $u$ is close to the trial subspace with accuracy $\epsilon$ and a Ritz vector $\tilde u$ is an $\epsilon$ approximation to another eigenvector, with a different eigenvalue. Generalizations of the estimate to the cases of eigenspaces and invariant subspaces are suggested, and estimates of approximation of eigenspaces and invariant subspaces are proved.