"What are the girls eating?"
Translation:Что едят девочки?
Does word order matter for this sentence-- could you say "что девочки едят"? And if so, is one better than the other?
They are both possible. It is hard to say which is better because the sentence is so short. With pronouns "Что ты ешь?", "Что они едят?", "Что мы едим?" would definitely be more common if you do not wish to put a special emphasis on the subject. As for "girls", both work. If you were interested what girls (or the girls), of all other people present, are eating, you would use the sentence in the header. If you were just interested in what they are eating (regardless of what other people eat), "Что девочки едят?" would work rather well.
I wrote "девочкичто едят что ?" Why is this wrong? Is it simply unnatural?
Question words (such as "что") typically go at the beginning of a sentence/clause.
When I hear/read Что едят девочки (What are the girls eating), for some reason I think it means "What is eating the girls". Is that a common misconception? Is that an interchangeable meaning of the sentence? It happens often in English, where for example, reed and read are two different things that sound exactly the same in speech. Is this something where you would need more context to understand the difference?
This is where the noun cases are important, since Russian word order is not as important as English word order.
Что едят девочки? What do girls eat?
Что ест девочек? What eats girls?
In the first sentence, the subject is always in the nominative case, so the noun девочки is in the nominative. In the second sentence, the subject is что, and what it eats is in the accusative case, so the noun девочек is in the accusative.
Also "девочки" is plural, so the verb "есть" is conjugated to third-person plural "едят." "Что" is singular, so the verb "есть" is conjugated to the third-person singular "ест." So the construction of the sentence is completely different based on the subject and the direct object.
You can say so also. Кушают sounds like dialectic, perhaps southern/western/jewish russian.
Kiev is definitely western lol, and my father's side of the family is Jewish. Makes sense
Aye! Moreover, Kiev is also southern. Travelling around Russia I noticed that кушают said in that regions very often, a much less in central Russia and very rare on east (where кушают in colloquial talks I heard only from Jewish). But every russian will understood you quite well.
Yes it can, depending on context. In Russian there's no difference between "do eat" and "are eating." Context determines the meaning
Age. Девочки are definitely girls, девушки would be more like young women.
Что кушают девушки? Why is it not accepted, I have always heard the кушать to be used instead of есть by Russians that I have had a chat with?