Difference between "И" and "а"?
I came across this in the first part of my lesson--what is the difference between these two forms of and?
It is explained in the lesson entitled "Conjunctions" as:
"А VS. И
In Russian, и is used to show similarity. Otherwise you should use а, which shows contrast. To be more specific, here are the typical patterns:
Я мальчик, а ты девочка. = I am a boy and you are a girl. Я работаю в кафе, а ты в школе. = I work in a cafe, and you (work) in a school. Я люблю спать, а ты нет. = I like sleeping, and you don't. А ты? = And you? → often used to indicate a question.
For а, there is also "narrative" contrast pattern, largely absent from this course (but not from real-life Russian):
На столе чашка, а в чашке чай. = There is a cup on the table, and the cup has tea in it. Он здесь, а это значит — воды нет. = He is here, and that means there's no water. Такси — это машина, а машины не всегда хорошо работают. = A taxi is a car, and cars do not always work well. (here, you are making your point by introducing a new thought "unexpected" by a listener)"
In general, if you can replace "and" with "but" in the English sentence and it means the same thing, e.g. I live in the US, and/but you live in Russia, use а. Otherwise, use и, e.g. He likes soccer and hockey.