"Can you tell me where mom is?"
Translation:Можете сказать, где мама?
Not necessarily. Мне is dative, so it means 'to me.' Of course, можете мне doesn't make sense (can you to me) so you'd need to put another verb somewhere in there. Можете мне сказать (lit. can you to me say) might work, considering word order in Russian is somewhat flexible. Not entirely sure, though.
Russian is spoken in many different places, and the idea of politeness is not the same different speakers. When my Grandpa's sister came to visit us, she used «ты» to salesclerks, which come off as very rude to us. But to her, it didn't: she's older than those salespeople, so that's why she used «ты».
So, there is a regional variation in what is percieved as polite.
For me, «мо́жете сказа́ть» sounds polite enough:
- you're using the Вы-form (мо́жете, not мо́жешь), and
- you're asking if the person has the possibility («мо́жете сказа́ть»), not just giving orders («скажи́те»).
So you've already done 2 things to be polite.
You could increase the politeness level even more:
- by using a version that assumes a negative answer («не могли́ бы вы сказа́ть?»), and
- by adding a 'please' («пожа́луйста» 'please' or «бу́дьте добры́» 'be kind =please'; you can stick it anywhere inside the phrase),
but I wouldn't say it's required. I percieve «мо́жете сказа́ть» as polite enough.
Of course, «не могли́ бы вы сказа́ть, пожа́луйста?» is more polite, but it's not that required. For me. I'm a 26-year old male programmer from Belarus. I can't tell for other Russian speakers, because there is a significant regional and social variation.
It’s not outright rude because it remains formally polite but I wouldn’t recommend using it in the beginning of a conversation when you are trying to attract someone’s attention.
It can also sound as if you are asking whether someone is able or allowed to answer your question.
@Zeitschleifer: I thought Russian had 3 different verbs for "can", because of these types of situation. One for "can = are you able to", one for "are you allowed to", one for "do you know how to..." (?)
Edit: I just checked my notebook - уметь for "being physically able/knowing how to do something" and может for "being allowed to". Nvm.
Here, сказа́ть ‘to tell’ is used in conjunction with мочь ‘can you’. Мо́жете is the main verb, it changes its form to show who is the subject (here, ‘you’ is the subject: ‘you can’; even though it’s omitted). Сказа́ть is additional and it’s doesn’t change its from. Instead, an special form is used for it: the infinitive.
If you’re coming from Balkan background, this might feel strange: languages like Bulgarian change the forms of the both verbs. But Russian doesn’t.
I've never seen such usage of ли before. I'm not a native speaker, but I think the way you are using ли in this sentence is incorrect
Maybe a native speaker or someone with better knowledge of Russian grammar than I can set us straight here.
«Скажи́те ли» with is definitely incorrect, because «скажи́те» is the imperative mood, and «ли» forms questions, and they don't work well together.
If I saw «скажите ли» written, I would think it's a misspelled «ска́жете ли» (since in unstressed syllables И and Е are undistinguishable, they are often substituted). «Ска́жете ли» means 'Will you tell [me]?'. However, it doesn't sound polite at all: the question is whether you're willing to share the information or not, not whether you can tell it or not. It implies, to some extent, that you know this, but might have your reasons not to tell.
Therefore, the question «Ска́жете ли вы, где ма́ма?» sounds not too polite, and implies some enmity (i.e. it has a shade of meaning like: 'I know you might know this, but will you tell me?'). It's a wording the police officer might use during the interrogation.
Ah, I see, you might very possibly be right. Thanks for the link.
I was used to it being used in questions of this nature though (politely asking someone to tell you, if they could, where your mother is), since it would be illogical to literally ask if a person was physically capable of telling you where your mother is. That's just asking for someone to say, "Yes" without elaborating. :) It also feels really unnatural for Russian, but I'm not a native speaker either.
The use of particles in Russian is very tricky and complicated, so it's entirely possible I used it incorrectly.
First, it should be «пожа́луйста». Second, this corresponds to the English "Tell me, please, where Mom is." and not to "Can you tell me where mom is?".
Your sentence is understandable, but it breaks one grammatical rule:
- «Скажи́те» is the imperative mood. But after modal verb «мо́жете», you need to use the infinitive: «мо́жете сказа́ть».
Also, it sounds unnatural for two reasons:
- We only use «есть» when the existence is emphasised. But you're not asking about whether mother exists somewhere (you know you have a mother), you're asking about her place. So, «есть» sound very unnatural in this sentence. Just drop it.
- The word order is not OK. If you want to move the predicate to the first place, then you need to use «ли»: «Можете ли вы сказать?» If you don't use «ли», then the word order is the same as in statements, that is, «Вы можете сказать..?»
Therefore, your sentence should look like this:
- Мо́жете ли вы сказа́ть мне, где ма́ма?
- Вы мо́жете сказа́ть мне, где ма́ма?
«Можете сказать, где мама?» It's a sentence with 2 parts. 1 part:
- Мо́жете = can [you]; verb «мо́чь» in present tense, 2nd person plural form
- сказа́ть = tell [me], infinitive 'to tell'; with мо́чь we put the main verb in the infinitive
- мо́жете сказа́ть has a subject omitted because it's some kind of meta-information, it's not really a part of the sentence but some additional fluff to make it more polite, therefore subject can be dropped here
- где́ is 'where?', a question word/interrogative pronoun
- ма́ма is a subject, 'Mum'; since it's a grammatical subject, it's put in the nominative case
This is not the only possible analysis. We could treat it as a complex sentence with «где ма́ма» being embedded inside «Мо́жете сказа́ть», being an object to the «сказа́ть». Then, «где» would be treated as a relative pronoun (not interrogative). But this analysis makes it much harder to explain why the subject is dropped in «мо́жете сказа́ть».
No. Говорить is similar to 'speak', it's about speaking in general, and not about telling some fact.
Точно неверно. Во-первых, это должно быть «Можно ли вы скажете мне, где мама». Во-вторых, это звучит неестественно, мы просто так не говорим. (Хотя, конечно, Вас поймут.)
"Can you tell me where is mum" is definitely wrong in English. This is called subject-auxiliary inversion, and happens in quite a few situations.
Link to Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subject%E2%80%93auxiliary_inversion
Actually, according to you link, "Can you tell me where is mum" is correct (and the suggested translation "Can you tell me where mom is?" is wrong):
b. *Cathy wonders what did Sam eat. - Incorrect; inversion should not be used in an indirect question
c. Cathy wonders what Sam ate. - Correct; indirect question formed without inversion