When you make a question in italian you reverse the word order.
In the normal word order (ie for a statement) the verb follows the subject, but in questions this is swapped around so instead you have the order:
(question word) (verb) (subject)
ie. Cosa bevono gli uomini?
Cosa mangi tu?
If the subject is a pronoun (io, tu, lui/lei, etc) it can be omitted like usual. ie. "Cosa mangi?"
English makes more sense because you're used to it. We always have a bias for our native language. But English jumbles the word order too at times - you just don't notice because you learnt English implicitly (as a child) rather than trying to learn it as a second language as an adult.
For example take a look at these English sentences:
"The men are drinking." becomes "What are the men drinking?" when made into a question. Here the word "are" has switched positions with "the men".
On the other hand, the sentence "The men drink" becomes "What do the men drink?" as a question - in this one we haven't changed the word order but we have added the word "do".
Why does Italian swap the word order? is just like asking as Why does English have two different rules for making statements into questions? If the situation was reversed you would be saying something like "the Italian way of doing things is so simple, why is English so weird?"
JakeSalway, it is exactly the same thing. The only difference is that English uses auxiliary verbs, and it's the auxiliary that gets moved around.
Consider how we would say it in archaic English. Rather than "What do you say?" it would be "What say you?" Or in Baa-Baa Black Sheep, it's not "Do you have any wool?", it's "Have you any wool?"
Jesslc - Your two examples, both failed to state that more than a simple word order mixup/change was involved. We did more than switch words as you stated. English also added a brand new Question word... WHAT.. .which immediately alerts you to the fact that a ?? is following. I think that's so helpful and insightful in any language. So just moving the same words around does not apply in those examples - as it might in a foreign language.
Some people are talking about how the word order changes in questions, and how English makes more sense. But they seem to have failed to notice that English too changes its word order for certain questions. For example, for yes-or-no questions, the verb switches positions with the subject, effectively changing the language's word order from SVO to VSO.
Example: "The men are drinking." becomes... "Are the men drinking."
Shifting word order for questions is common for languages, especially Indo-European ones. You just likely never noticed due to it being your native language.
See the following useful page on this: http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/italian/language_notes/il.html
Gli is plural form of lo, lo and il are both masculine of "the". So when should you use lo/gli? When the noun starts with a vowel or 's+consonant' like lo squalo or gli stivali or gli uomini. There are more occasions but thats the basics. Google when to use lo vs il. The reason for this is to just make it roll off the tongue better, like how in english we'll say A minute, or AN hour. We add the n in front of a vowel, they have il/lo
??? Not clear w your English explanation of: we'll say A minute, or AN hour. We add the n in front of a vowel.... Really? So AN Hour doesn't work. B/c AN Hour isn't an N in Front of a vowel starting word. Vowels are A,E,I,O,U. Not H. So the way I read your sentence... it shouldn't have an N or AN in front of Hour. Or.... is the sentence/explanation wrong. Sorry, but it's confusing.