@R_Andersson As often happens on Duolingo, a lack of context leads to differing interpretations. I interpreted this example as a question about a specific situation, in which a strict interpretation of English grammar rules prefers "thought" - I'm going by the basic rules outlined at .http://www.englishgrammar.org/sequence-tenses/
They do also say that for "universal truths" the second verb may be in the present; I think this would correspond to your example "I asked Jenny what she eats," which I agree sounds fine. I'd also say "I asked Jenny what she thinks about when she goes for a walk" - again, for a general statement the present is good.
@curt Not correct in Standard English? What? I am not a native English speaker but the sentence makes sense to me. It makes even more sense when we replace ‘to think’ with a verb like ‘to eat.’’ Just for fun’s sake, do it.
‘I asked Jenny what she eats’ makes perfect sense. It does not mean the same as ‘I asked Jenny what she ate’ because when ‘eats’ is used, you get a more general concept of what can eat and not. ‘I asked Jenny what she eats and she answered that she is a vegetarian.’ It may not be ‘correct’ but it makes sense to me. When ‘ate’ is used, you get a more precise meaning, like if we are referring to a specific event in history when she ate something. ‘I asked Jenny what she ate at the party last night.’
‘I asked Jenny what she is eating’ also gives are more precise meaning, referring to the present. It can be understood that first person asked Jenny in the near past, like a two minutes ago or something, because she has not finished eating since the question was asked.
‘I asked Jenny what she was eating’ gives an even more precise meaning, this refers to a single moment in the past, more precise than the same sentence with ‘ate.’ Like ‘I asked Jenny what she was eating the moment she vomited.’
So, all of these would translate to «Я спросил(а) (у) Дженни, что она ела» or «Я спросил(а) (у) Дженни, что она кушала»?
This page may be helpful, especially the section 'Past tense in the main clause - Прошедшее время в главном предложении.'
The examples they give are clear and correct English - but keep in mind that many native speakers of English aren't aware of the 'sequence of tenses' rule, and don't apply it consistently in informal usage. There's been all sorts of disagreement/confusion about this in Duolingo discussions about how to translate Джон думал, что она ходит в школу.
I'd say "I have asked" should be accepted. I'm a native speaker of (US) English but can't articulate the 'rules' of when to say 'have asked' vs. simple past 'asked;' I'd say it depends on context, which Duolingo can't provide in these one-sentence chunks, so I wouldn't worry about it too much here. You're right that using perfective спросил indicates a one-time action that was completed.
Interesting. "I asked what Jenny thought" is rejected. If the rejection is valid, I'm tempted to conclude the Russian phrase is unambiguous about whom I asked. So, the Russian sentence would not include the possibility that I asked someone other than Jenny their opinion about what Jenny was thinking?
This is grammatically correct, but it means something different. It implies that what she thought was very, very wrong. For example:
"You put a fork in the microwave? What were you thinking?"
"They tricked me and I fell for it! What was I thinking?"
"Jenny, I thought you knew better. How could you make such a mistake? What were you thinking?"
You probably mean the prefix? I'm not sure but I think the difference is in how finished the verb feels, which is studied later in this course. That is:
"Просил" - I was asking.
"Спросил" - I asked.
This doesn't mean that "с" makes verbs finished, the prefix or the change in the verb is different for the different verbs.
And of course, "с" doesn't mean "with" here.
turtelian, you could make an argument that they should be more accepting of English speakers who don't bother with the English sequence of tenses rule... but for what it's worth, this is why they accept past in the translation (or see my comments above): http://usefulenglish.ru/grammar/sequence-of-tenses
Turtelian, I agree with you: "думает" is Present Tense or Present Continuous and should be translated as such. I will never understand WHY it is translated as Past Tense. If the idea was to ask what she thought, they should have used "думала". To be sincere with you: I don't think Russian is a logical language with all respect to the Russian people or Duolingo doesn't know how to translate properly.
You could make a good argument that Russian is more logical than English here (ie no sequence of tenses rule to think about), but in the end, I think worrying about what's 'logical' isn't productive in language learning. Often exceptions or other seemingly illogical features just reflect how the language developed historically – but burdening beginners with those details wouldn't be helpful.
I totally agree. At first, I thought the sentence would translate as 'I asked by Jenny what she thinks." I don't know what purpose the 'у' serves...
Why couldn't it be: Я спросил Дженни, что она думала? It would make more sense to me than this--Я спросил у Дженни, что она думает...
Alonzo, if I have understood the info I found on Wikipedia correctly, this is because Russian (as opposed to English, Dutch, French...) uses relative time. In English, the tense of the verb depends on the position (in time/space) of the person who utters the sentence. If I talk now, today, about some activity I did yesterday after waking up, then both the activity and the waking up would be in the past tense.
However, since Russian doesn't use this absolute time, the tense does not depend on the storyteller, but rather on the comparison with other events in the sentence. I woke up (past tense) and then I "do" (not "did") the activity. It doesn't sound right in English, but that's exactly the difference.
I hope the explanation isn't too longwinded (and I hope it's correct - otherwise I've mislead myself).
спрашивать/спросить can be used with either у + genitive (я спросил у Дженни, у Сони, у Бориса), or just accusative (я спросил Дженни, Соню, Бориса), with no difference in meaning. So your example would be correct too – not because it makes sense to English speakers, but because that's just how this verb works in Russian.
I don't know if Duolingo mentions or provides this information, but it's incredibly helpful to learn which case and/or preposition is used with a given verb. Katzner's excellent dictionary gives this critical info after спрашивать like this: "(with acc. or у)", and other sources might give the question words (кого? у кого?).