and so does the English one.
Not so fast. If I join a new soccer team, a natural question to me would be 'what can you play' meaning '(In) what position can you play?'. I usually play defence.
Equally well, this question may be about the types of card games I can play.
You have assumed a certain context, but the English sentence is much broader. I agree that the Russian phrase unambiguously refers to musical instruments though.
Well, aside from very specialised contexts (I much prefer playing football on real grass rather than AstroTurf) where "на"="on" can be translated literally, Russian "играть на X" fairly unambiguously points towards "playing X" where X is a musical instrument.
Given the combination "умеешь играть"="can play", this becomes completely unambiguous: even in the context I gave you, I can certainly play football on either surface, it's just that I prefer one over the other.
I am trying to understand why we use the propositional of что (чём). I thought because the subject is "you" and I needed the propositional. But then, my Ukrainian girlfriend, told me this sentence:
Что ты умеешь играть?
Here что is accusative and matches with играть that is masculine accusative. Basically it is the verb who needs this associated case.
Is my thought grammatically correct?
Hm.. That does not seem right. There exist languages where the verb attaches affixes that agree with the subject AND the object.
Russian, however, is the same family as Swedish, Spanish, English, or German. For us, it is the grammatical subject (if present) that affects the form of the predicate, and that's it.
Играть is the infinitive; it does not have gender, number, tense, person or anything, really. It has a model of government, though. For games, it is играть + в + Acc. For roles, recordings or musical pieces it is играть + Acc.. For musical instruments it is играть + на + Prep :
- Я играют в баскетбол.
- Она играет Гертруду.
- Мы играем сонату для скрипки и фортепиано.
- Она играет на виолончели.
Literally speaking, it is playing "into a game", playing "a role" or "a song" and playing "on a musical instrument".
Usually ь really means that the consonant changes its sound or a vowel has the initial й (including и, e.g. in "воробьи"). Вяз and вяpь are pronounced differently
Some Russian spelling conventions, however, follow legacy practices, such as what you saw here. Second person singular forms all end in a ь. It does not affect pronunciation since in modern Russian Ш is permanently non-palatalised.