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The magical question word, "чи" ...where is it?

I have only made it to the first "Past Tense" lesson thus far in the Ukrainian course, and please forgive me if this has already been posted and discussed in another thread...I did try to find a similar post before writing this but ...here goes!

In Polish it is common to begin yes/no questions with "Czy...", it's described as similar to the French "Est-ce que..." (Is it that...) for you francophones. An example would be "Czy mówisz po polsku?" meaning, "do you speak Polish" vs. "Mówisz po polsku." which just means, "you speak Polish".

I am reading "Teach Yourself Ukrainian" by James Dingley and Olena Bekh as I work through the Duolingo course and it describes using the word "чи" for the same purpose in Ukrainian. The word would be transliterated, pronounced, and translated the same way in Polish, and both can be used to mean "or" as well (in either/or sentences) in their respective languages.

In the Duo tree for Ukrainian, thus far this word has only been introduced as "or" and every yes/no question has been the same construct as a declarative sentence but with a question mark at the end, and an interrogative inflection in the audio. We can do this in English, French, and Polish as well, but I am being told that "чи" is also employed, but when I try to translate a sentence using "чи" it is not accepted.

Is this word and construction not used at all in the course? Is it not commonly used in Ukrainian anymore, or considered improper maybe? If it is missing from the course, can it be added as an accepted answer? I am a beginner to Ukrainian so I ask this out of genuine confusion, not frustration, but any direction here is greatly appreciated.

December 31, 2018



This word used in Ukrainian question sentences for separating, also for intensification of intonation, emotions or for other purposes. (Sorry, my English don't let me to say a full answer).
"Ти говориш англійською?" - this is a standard question.
"Чи ти говориш англійською?" - this is a question with powering of interrogative nature of the sentence, of interrogative intonation.
"Ти говориш французською чи англійською?" - this is a standard question.


Thank you for the explanation!

In some languages, using the same word order as a statement and not using any question word (just a questioning intonation) would emphasize that you are surprised to ask that question, e.g. in English asking, "You speak Polish?!" would imply that I am surprised to find out someone speaks Polish, and I am asking just to make sure they do. Asking, "Do you speak Polish?" is more of a standard way to phrase the question and there is no implication of surprise or emphasis.

It sounds like the opposite is true for Ukrainian if чи is only used to emphasize that it is a question. Would that be a fair way to characterize the difference, or am I way off?

Also, your English is great! I could never provide such an informative answer in Ukrainian if I had to explain grammar! Thank you for being willing to answer my question :)

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