"Что такое жизнь?"
Translation:What is life?
See tips'n'notes: кто is masculine, что is neuter. It's kinda tricky though, because you say "кто такая Анна?", for example (who is Anne), but you say "Кто пришёл?" (who came?), even you do know that it is a woman. With что you have always neuter, though: Что это? (what's this?), что случилось? (what happened?) etc.
the first part of the sentence "Что такое?" means what is it. you can put any word after this to ask a philosophical question like the one here: what is (it) life.
IF you write "Что такая жизнь?" you say something like: what is such life. "такая" is now a demonstrative pronoun describing one spesific life, and not life in general.
Except, it is incorrect to say directly "Что такая жизнь", you'll have to modify it in some way. Look at the comment by Dr.Fandey. But you could say something like "Что такая жизнь значит".
смысл жизни. Watch out the case endings, Russian grammar is trickier than English in this: meaning of life, or life's meaning, is translated by genitive case into Russian (смысл жизни).
It wouldn't be wrong but it is not used in a daily speech. Only in poetry or something like that. E.g.: "Что - наша жизнь? Игра!" (c) "What's our life? A game!"
But the question didn't include the "is". Wouldn't что жизнь just be "that life"?
Would что жизнь really be acceptable Russian for "What is life?"
Well, without any context it could be used only like I wrote above. In a daily speech, one usually says: что такое жизнь? Or что есть жизнь? (In a general meaning of the word "life"). But the second one is less common.
In Russian, the verb "to be" is ommited almost always. The interrogative pronoun is just enough. Look: Что такое химия? Химия - это наука (What is chemistry? Chemistry is a science). Где ты (есть)? (Where are you?). Откуда ты (есть)? (Where are you from?) Когда (будет) обед? (When is the dinner? / When will be the dinner). Он - вор (He is a theft).
In English we definitely should use "to be" forms in such sentences and it causes some difficulties for Russians who learn English))
It could mean "that life" but only as a part of a compound sentence: он думал, что жизнь не закончится никогда = he thought (that) life would never end.
It would be better to say "что это за жизнь?" Nobody would say "что такая жизнь". If speaking about the kind of life form (a virus, for instance, is another life form), then it would be "что это за форма жизни".
They are interchangeable in most cases. One little correction: "Что значит" should be without "ь".
What's the difference between this and "Что жизнь?"
Well, "Что жизнь?" is pretty much meaningless. It's not how you ask what something is.
I thought this would be "what is such a life?" So how would i ask that in Russian?
That does not make much sense, at least not in present day Russian. Maybe Что есть такая жизнь? if you are ready to sound very stiff. Or, if that's what you mean, Что это за жизнь / Что это за жизнь такая ? ("What kind of life is that?!")
Что такое жизнь? Детка не делай мне больно, не делай мне больно, больше не надо...