Can this also be "why are the gentlemen not drinking?" As in a situation where you are talking to another person at a dinner party and observing their behaviour or something (or would that only work with a determiner?).
If you wanted to specifically single out all men from a very general group (and contrast it with ladies, who might do the contrary), then you could say so (again, better not to use that if you are saying this to men, or else they might misunderstand it as reffering to them).
In many contexts "tamci panowie" should work better (you might have a specific group in mind, not all of the men at the party, for example). And if you are not in a formal situation yourselves, you might simply use "oni".
If you are talking about them, not 'to them', you would need to specify. Unless maybe if you were talking to 'the ladies' about 'the gentlemen', then it should be clear. If there was a clear division and it would seem obvious.
In polish we express the respect during addressing somebody by using the third person (
you) but it should be translated as
you by default.
When formally addressing somebody with the use pan, pani, panowie, etc., we use the third person.
That is due to a number of users 'fighting' for the options of 'you all' and 'you guys' as plural you. But you're right, in terms of register it really looks weird, so I deleted those options from this sentence.
Having said that, there is of course an option that the sentence is ironic, there is no context.
The thing with formal, plural 'you' is that there is also the semi-formal option: using panie/panowie/państwo not with 3rd person plural, but with 2nd person plural. Some people deem that incorrect (as it mixed formal and informal words), but it's definitely in usage. If it was "panowie nie pijecie", I think that would strengthen the possibility of the sentence being ironic.
Using the semi-formal option for singular, like "pan pijesz", really looks rather sarcastic.
I think this would be a suggestion that they should drink, and not a question about why they aren't.
Note for the learners: I find this answer a bit confusing as a Polish native speaker. 'Dlaczego panowie nie piją' translates literally into 'Why do not the gentlemen drink?' and Duo doesn't accept it for some reason. Suggeted answer is 'Why don't you drink' which does make sense in Polish if you are being polite, but is not really an accurate translation, which is what the exercise asks for.
Well, as another Polish native speaker I'd say that normally 'panowie' without any further description (ci panowie, wysocy panowie etc.) can only be Formal You. I can agree that in this sentence it can be 'the gentlemen' (I am 'a lady', drinking with other ladies, and our husbands = the gentlemen are not drinking). So ok, added such an interpretation.
But I believe that "Why do not the gentlemen drink?" is not the best way to put it in English. Negative questions are a nightmare to me, but this link (https://www.englishgrammar.org/negative-questions/) shows different solutions.
Shouldn't "why aren't you drinking" be accepted as the correct translation?