"Is my dad here?"
Translation:Мой папа здесь?
"здесь" means the place where you are in more wide sense, than "вот". "Вот" (in sense of here) is used when you point to somebody/something that is near you, it's more precisely than "здесь".
- Где мой телефон?
- Вот он (or u can use simpler answer "Вот")
(translated as "-Where is my phone? -Here it is")
Using "Вот" in this case you are showing/pointing to the phone, which is placed near you.
The word "здесь" (here) can be used as the subject in the sentence, meaning the whole place where you are. "Здесь очень красиво" (It's very beautiful here). But it also can be used as "вот".
Here is an example which can break your mind ;). "Вот здесь" - it is translated as "here it is", which means an exactly part of the place near you are (you should point to this part)
Are you familiar with the movie "Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark"? Well, there's a scene in it that makes me wonder if it would be a situation where you could use "Вот здесь." It is a rather famous scene, and one that I would think most Americans will know. A GIF of it is below:
For more context, visit the link to the video:
For humans and other animals with a definite real gender you should use it. 'Папа' is masculine, 'мама' is feminine.
For other nouns 'rules' are complicated:
There are nine nouns with -мя: знамя, пламя, бремя, время, племя, стремя, темя, имя, вымя. They are neutral and have special declention rules.
Others with -а and -я ('петля' -> 'loop', 'голова' -> 'head') are feminine.
Nouns with consonant at the end ('стул' -> 'chair', 'дом' -> 'house') are masculine.
Nouns with -ь can be masculine ('никель' -> 'nickel', 'корень' -> 'root') or feminine ('сталь' -> 'steel', 'лень' -> 'laziness'). Just learn it for each word. ;-)
'Кофе' -> 'coffee' is masculine (but can be neutral in an spoken speech).
Others are neutral ('небо' -> 'sky', 'поле' -> 'field', 'такси' -> 'taxi') or can't be singular ('ножницы' -> 'scissors'), and we have no gender for plural.
Strange exceptions (like masculine 'домина' -> 'huge house') are too rare, don't think about it.
Although it is true that ь is transliterated as an apostrophe in English and that the ь by itself would be silent, when it's preceded by another letter it 'softens' it. Try thinking about it as a really short, unvoiced i. Meaning that you place the tongue on the palate as if you are making an [i] sound but unvoiced.