But what's the difference between a consonant being pronounced closer to a "y" sound and a consonant being followed by a "y" sound? "Cute" is already pronounced "kyut", so if you made it "cьute" wouldn't it still be "kyut"? I don't see how the first "ь" in "пьёшь" isn't redundant.
I found the following information (“Ь - Wiktionary” 2017):
"Less commonly, it just has a traditional orthographic usage with no phonetic meaning (like Russian туш (tuš, “flourish after a toast”) and тушь (tušʹ, “India ink”), both pronounced [tuʂ], but different in grammatical gender and declension), . . . Verbs in the 2nd person singular end in -ешь, -ёшь, -ишь, the final ш (š) is pronounced as [ʂ]."
Our point in case пьёшь , which is 2nd person singular present indicative imperfective of пить, falls under the case where ь has no phonetic meaning.
In English, if we ask, "Do you drink milk?" Or, "Do you eat vegetables?", it is a general question asking if someone likes something, or if they usually DO the thing we are asking about. Common examples: "Do you smoke?" "Do you drink?" "Do you exercise often?" "Do you watch TV?" "Do you vote?" --- The auxilliary verb "to do" is used in this case because it is a general inquiry into what someone usually does. ---
If we ask, "Are you cooking?" Or, "Are you watching the President's speech?", it is a question about what someone is doing right now. These are much different questions than, "Do you cook?" or, "Do you watch the President's speeches?". --- The auxilliary verb "to be" (am, is, are) is used in this case because it is a specific inquiry into someone's state of being right now. ---
So, I wrote "Are you drinking milk?" and it was marked as correct. However, it states "Do you drink milk?" is also a correct translation. Are they actually the same question in Russian and I just have to tell it apart by context? Or are both translations correct but "a native wouldn't say it that way" for one of them?
I mean, assume that I'm in Russia drinking some drink that looks a lot like milk (but isn't) and a Russian sits down across from me with a nice big cold glass of milk. He looks at me and asks, "Ты пьёшь молоко?" How do I respond? I'm not drinking milk at that moment, but yes, I do drink milk sometimes.
Nice example. It is very clear from context that Russian asks you about current moment of time. That would be too weird to ask you whether you drink milk and if you are drinking something that looks a lot like milk you of course will be able to understand the reason of such unexpected question. Moreover Russian most probably would point to your glass of "not milk" when asking.
But if you still feel misunderstanding you may just ask again "сейчас или вообще?"
There are four similar combinations possible: /pʲjo/ (пьё), /pʲo/ (пё), /pjo/ (пъё), and /po/ (по) (and yes, they are apparently all distinguished from one another). In other words, the soft (or hard) sign not only indicates that the consonant is soft (or hard) but also that the vowel is pronounced as if it were at the beginning of a word.