Что, used as 'What,' but also 'That'?
Привет, как дела? У меня есть вопрос. I know that что is used as 'what' in the beginning of a question, but I've noticed with the Russian I'm learning at the moment that it can also be used as 'that.' Are there any rules for using что as 'that,' which I should know, or is it just a synonym?
For instance, can it be used in this phrase, in this context, and make sense:
"Я знаю, что он из России."
Or can it only be used as 'that' in very specific circumstances? Большое спасибо, мои друзья!
Trust me, you're on the right path. Ultimately, что comes from Proto-Indo-European *kʷis; whence what in English and quī in Latin originate. This pronoun is used as both a relative and inquisitive pronoun meaning who/what/that, and is used for both forming questions and linking relative clauses to an antecedent (a subject that is referred to by a pronoun).
One 'rule' that comes to mind for using что as 'that' is: If, in English, you could use 'that' in a clause, you must use что in Russian. For example, in the sentence you gave above, I could translate it into English as "I know, that he is from Russia." or as "I know he is from Russia." But, in Russian, you cannot really say Я знаю он из России, and you have to use что.
However, be careful, because not every use of 'that' is rendered as что in Russian.
Thank you! I've been pondering this ever since I came across it in my learning and it really threw me for some reason in case of making any embarrassing mistakes of some sort. Thank you, again, that's cleared it up for me!