"Есть" and possession
I studied Russian in college, but it's been a while since I've spoken it, so I'd appreciate a refresher on when it's acceptable to include есть in questions/statements involving possession.
As far as I understand, you use есть when the actual possession of an object is unknown, e.g., "Do you have a car?"/"У тебя есть машина?" However, when it's widely known or obvious that the subject possesses the object and you're asking about a quality of that object, i.e. "Do you have green eyes?", есть is omitted: "У тебя зелёные глаза?"
My questions are: 1) Did I get that right? and 2) Would native speakers look at me funny if I said something like "У него есть большой нос" in normal conversation?
I can answer only your second question, and yes, to me «У него есть большой нос» looks odd. Unless you mean that he's a clown and has a bunch of different noses and one of them is really big.
You usually omit "есть" speaking of physical features and things. У него зеленые глаза, греческий нос и большие уши. У нее длинные волосы. У ребенка игрушка.( you don't need "есть"). У него зеленая машина./I have a green car У меня белая машина./I have a white car. У него аллергия./ He got allergy. I'm native speaker. It is common to omit many words in Russian.
У тебя есть машина? - Do you have a car? (or not?)
У тебя машина? - Dou have a car? (or a motorcycle?)
У тебя есть машина - You have a car. (and I don't)
У тебя машина - You have a car (and I have a motorcycle)
I feel it like that. "есть" is used when you want to accent that the person HAS the object (rather than not). And it is omitted if the accent is on the kind of object (car rather than motorcycle)
The same is true about eyes. The sentence "У тебя есть глаза" sounds really funny because every one has them (even if the person is blind he still HAS eyes, it is a kind of horror story if he doesn't). Though there is one case when you may hear something like "У тебя глаза есть?!" And that means that you have not noticed something VERY important (for instance a hole in the place you are going to) and it is definitely irony ))
And if someone says "У тебя зеленые глаза" than he definitely means "The eyes are green, not blue or brown".
Statements/questions that omit есть can also be used to confirm who exactly has a thing. It's a matter of which word you place emphasis on. Here you would place emphasis on the possessor
У тебя сыр? - Is it you that has the cheese?
У тебя сыр. - You are the one that has the cheese.
I feel that 'yest' adds emphasis, so "u menya belaya mashina" means 'I have a white car', and "u menya yest belaya mashina" means 'I actually have a white car'. Am I wrong to suppose this?