"Can you give him this letter?"
Translation:¿Tú le puedes dar esta carta?
The previous group of lessons would insist on translating, "le das esta carta" as "can you give him this letter", but this time I'm told I have to say "puedes dar". What's the difference?
They are two different ways of asking the same thing. "Puedes dar" is the most direct translation of "can you give". But in Spanish it's also very common to ask for a favor saying "le das....?". It is like if you said in English "you give him the letter?". Of course it sounds odd in English, doesn't make much sense. But it's perfectly valid in Spanish.
Actually we do say 'you give him the letter? but it means something totally different.
.. thinking about it, it's something like this: "did you give him the letter? Or "have you given him the letter (yet)?" It's a less polite much more familiar form in English. It is not a request to give someone something. And yes, I am a native speaker of American English.
Now if we want to ask someone to give somebody else a letter.. " would you mind giving him a letter?" or. "could you give him a letter?" These are still somewhat impolite, we would also include the word 'please' in there which in Spanish of course is por favor. If the word please is emphasized too much, it's almost like a demand..give him the damned book! if there's a light or normal emphasis on it, it's a polite way of requesting you to give someone something. In English, as in many languages, the emphasis you make changes the meaning of a sentence
That's fair enough, but why not suggest which way they want it answered?