How would you make the distinction between asking what someone is drinking right now vs. what someone drinks regularly e.g. when ordering a drink (usually referring to alcohol)? Is there anything besides "что он пьёт?" or is it just context?
You can add the word "regularly" (normally/usually) - Что он обычно пьет? - to add that bit of context if you're trying to figure that out specifically.
Of course no. Russian speakers only have one drink, vodka, so we don't need to ask such questions. If someone's drinking, it's obvious he's drinking водка. We even give vodka for out pet bears to drink. ;) (Sometimes we also drink water, вода, but водка is the diminutive form of вода, so it's really almost the same word. Diminutive expresses kindness in this case. We use the diminutive form to show that водка and that it is the preferred form of вода.)
Jokes aside, it's probably as often used as the English sentence. Probably not so often (because we don't ask what other people are drinking every day), but if you want to ask what beverage someone is drinking, you'd use this question.
This was intended as a joke, sorry if it wasn't funny. ^^"
This makes me crack up, but I do have to ask more seriously - is водка actually a diminutive of вода? :D
Yes, «к» was originally a diminutive suffix:
- слез-а ‘tear’ + -к- diminutive suffix → слёзка ‘a little tear’,
- земл-я ‘land’ (which is root зем[e]ль- + ending -а) + -к- → земе́лька ‘a dear/cute land’,
- ку́ч-a ‘pile, heap’ + -к- → ку́чка ‘a small pile’.
However, a bare -к- diminutive is not normally used nowadays as diminutive. Most diminutive words formed this way were created in the past. In the modern language, the diminutives created with bare -к- often sounds rude, especially when used about people:
- де́в-а ‘virgin, maiden, Virgo’ + -к- → де́вка impolite word for ‘girl’,
- ма́м-а ‘mum’ + -к- → ма́мка impolite word for ‘mother’ (you would use that when insulting someone’s mother),
- Ве́ра ‘Vera (female name)’ + -к- → Ве́рка impolite variant of the name Vera.
To form diminutives in modern language, we usually combine -к- with other suffixes:
- дева ‘virgin, maiden, Virgo’ + -очк- ‘diminutive suffix’ → де́вочка ‘girl’
- ма́ма ‘mum’ + -очк- ‘diminutive suffix’ → ма́мочка ‘Mummy’
Actually, -очк- was originally formed as two -к- stacked together! The -о- is the fill vowel, and к becomes ч before another к suffix:
- во́дка ‘vodka’ + -к- → во́дочка diminutive form of ‘vodka’.
Since во́дка and во́дочка are taken to mean ‘vodka’, to form a modern diminutive of вода́, you need to use a different suffix alltogether — -ичк-:
- вода́ ‘water’ + -ичк- → води́чка diminutive of ‘water’.
Пьёт is third person singular - he drinks. Пьёшь is second person singular (informal) - you drink. You can enter any form of a word here to see the full conjugation table, though you need to use е instead of ё. http://starling.rinet.ru/cgi-bin/morphque.cgi?flags=endnnnnp
The word «что» is an exception, it's pronounced as if it's written «што». «ш» is a complex sound that is roughly similar to English sh. In most other cases Ч is pronouned similar to the English ch.
Ё is pronounced /jo/ after ь.
So, the verb doesn't have to come in the second place in questions, even with question words?
No. The word order is almost the same as in statements, except that the question word comes at the beginning.
Since the statement here would be «Он пьёт (чай)», for example, to make it into a verb we add a question verb at the beginning, and we get «Что он пьёт?».
Based on my experience, a lot more чай than водка, though maybe that's just the people I hang out with.
I would have assumed the correct answer was "what is he drinking" but the closest i could make with the words i was given was "what does he drink" do these mean the same thing? I got the answer correct
They mean the same for the most part. "What does he drink?" can also mean "What does he drink [normally]?" For instance, "He doesn't usually drink tea", "Oh really? What does he drink?".
How can you distinguish between when a consonant is supposed to be soft vs. when it's supposed to be hard? Also how do you pronounce the «ь» sound, and what does it do to the preceding consonant?