I'm not sure of the exact grammatical terminology, but when you ask "Is there...?" you are inherently implying the existence of an ambiguity - that there are two or more candidates which could produce a "yes" to your question.
- Is there a bike available to rent? = There are multiple bikes that might be rentable: is one of these available?
- Is there an ostrich at the zoo? = There are perhaps millions of ostriches in the world: is one of them at the zoo?
Notice that in these sentences, we use the indefinite article (a, an) with the noun that we are asking about. We cannot use "the" because there are two or more possible candidates that can produce a "yes", which is also implied by the question format "Is there...?"; "the bike" or "the ostrich" would contradict this by implying that there is only one candidate.
If instead there were indeed only one candidate, then we would ask:
- Is the bike available to rent?
- Is the ostrich at the zoo?
Now, the above applies to countable things. For non-countable things, we use "any" in place of "a" or "an":
- Is there (any) food in the fridge?
There still exists an ambiguity, such that many possibilities exist for which particular food in the world or in one's house might currently be in the fridge. But in this case, since "food" isn't countable, we must use "any" as its accompanying indefinite article.
If we are looking for the possibility of multiple "yeses", we ask "Are there...?" and accompany the noun with either the indefinite article "any", or with no article (at your discretion, either is acceptable):
- Are there (any) bikes available to rent?
- Are there (any) apples at the market today?
- Are there (any) ostriches at the zoo?
The same ambiguity still exists here of candidates that might produce a "yes".
Applying the above to your question, we cannot say "Is there the moon in the sky?" because "the moon" contradicts the construction "is there...?" that implies an ambiguity among multiple possibilities.
Now recognize that there is in fact only one moon that we would be talking about in this question. So, can we use the construction "Is there...?" at all? It turns out, yes we can.
When we ask "Is there a moon in the sky?" what we are really asking as a default is, "Of all the moons that we might see, is any one of them visible right now?" But since it is understood that there is only one moon that we would be referring to, this default meaning is overlooked for a more obvious alternative meaning: "Is the moon visible to us right now?" or simply "Is the moon in the sky?" Perhaps a reason that "Is there a moon in the sky?" is considered acceptable is that the moon does appear in many forms (half moon, quarter moon, full moon), such that we might consider all of those to be the candidate possibilities that are suggested by the "Is there...?" construction.
In general I would nonetheless observe that "Is the moon in the sky?" sounds more precise and better to my ear than "Is there a moon in the sky?"; the construction is entirely consistent with there being only one moon.
If we ask "Is there any moon in the sky?", we are more overtly asking if any form of a moon (half-moon, quarter moon) is visible, or if the moon is visible even if partly obscured (due to landscape, for example).
To add more clarity with a different example... you might ask your spouse over the phone: "Is there a dog in the yard?" if you have multiple dogs at home, and you suspect that one of them might have gotten out of the house. But if you have only one dog at home, and there is no ambiguity about which dog (such as a neighbor's dog) might be in your yard then you would not ask "Is there a dog in the yard?" You would ask, "Is the dog in the yard?", because there is only one possible dog - "the dog". Or you would ask "Is Spot in the yard?" if your dog's name is Spot.
You would not ask "Is there any dog in the yard?" because dogs are countable. But you could ask "Are there any dogs in the yard?" And you could ask "Is there any dog-poop in the yard?" because dog-poop is not countable.
Does that clarify things?
Thanks Swing, for taking the time to help out with the intracacies of the English language. I gave you an up-vote :-)
"Is there any moon in the sky?" could also be asked if you were on another planet with multiple moons, e.g. Saturn.
I think it's called the subjunctive. It's the reason why we say, "John LIVES at home" and "John should LIVE with his girlfriend".
But, I'm not sure either.
You can also remember "cielo" by its root prefix "ciel-", just like the word "ceiling" in English.
I think that due to the reversal of the verb-subject, it emphasizes "the moon", as in - is it the moon in the sky? (as opposed to just some round white glowing thingie you're not sure about). opinions?
I actually put "is it the moon in the sky?" and it was marked incorrect. If you wrote "Está la luna en el cielo" without the question marks, it would mean "it is the moon in the sky." Do I have that wrong?
Okay. So, I just want to help clarify some things for everyone on this topic because I know that it can be difficult to understand the syntax and grammar.
If you want to ask, "What is in the sky? Is it the moon?" then you would phrase your question like this: "Is it the moon that's in the sky?" = "Es la luna que está en el cielo?" Also, it can be asked, "Is that the moon that I see in the sky?" = "Es la luna que veo en el cielo?" The important thing to notice is that the word "que" which, in this context, is used as the word "that" (or might be used as the word "which") as in "The moon THAT EXISTS" = "La luna QUE EXISTE" = "The moon WHICH EXISTS"
If you ask, "La luna está en el cielo?" then it will (more than likely) be understood that you are asking if the moon is actually in the sky tonight, and this will carry a connotation of disbelief. "Is the moon in the sky? (I can't believe it!)"
If you ask, "Es la luna en el cielo?" then it sounds like a question a young child might ask. "Where is the moon? Is it in the sky?"
And finally, by asking, "Está la luna en el cielo?" then what you are really asking is, "Is the moon out (tonight)?" This is the most common way of structuring this sentence in most Spanish speaking countries.
However, in the USA many people will also understand your question when phrased with the connotation of disbelief, "La luna está en el cielo?"
Yes, Leko, I think you are right. The reversed word order puts more emphasis on the moon. It might even be funny/sarcastic, as in: Is the Pope Catholic?
How do I say: "Is there a moon in the sky today?" Está una luna en el cielo hoy?
This question is off topic, but on the home screen, there is a right triangle underneath each lesson icon. Most of mine are completely filled with gold, but some are partially filled. I assume that means that those lessons were not perfect scores. Is that correct?
Imagine a child asking this question. Could it mean "Is the moon in heaven?" ?
One of the translations for cielo is heaven so why not is that the moon in the heavens?
¿Soy la única que oye un leve acento de parte de la voz femenina, anglosajón ? Es muy leve. No es que me esté quejando o que el hecho de que tenga acento me moleste ni nada parecido, pero he visto que en otros cursos exigen que los interesados en aportar hablen como nativos. (Por ejemplo, ahora mismo para mejorar el curso de guaraní....) Qué raro.