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Thread: "What" is the difference between "что" and "каков"?

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    "What" is the difference between "что" and "каков"?

    How is "каков" different to "что" and when would you use "каков"? Can anyone give any example phrases? (for "каков", I know a few situations where one would use "что").
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    Re: "What" is the difference between "что" and "каков"?

    In English, both words can frequently be translated as 'what' in questions. Что means 'what' in questions such as 'what are you doing?', asking for a single piece of information. Какой / каков ask for one piece of information out of a number, such as 'what suggestions do you have?' - note that in English you can replace the 'what' in the second sentence with 'which', but not the one in the first. So I would say you can use forms of каков when you can use 'which' instead of 'what' in English.

    But I'm not a native speaker of either language, so others may have different ideas about this.

    Robin
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    Re: "What" is the difference between "что" and "каков"?

    Yes, good explanation.

    каков, какой makes a question to an adjective, while что makes a question to a noun.
    "Россия для русских" - это неправильно. Остальные-то чем лучше?

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    Re: "What" is the difference between "что" and "каков"?

    каков, какой makes a question to an adjective, while что makes a question to a noun.
    Are you sure?
    Какой сегодня день недели? — question to a noun.

    I can add that «что» can be used instead of «какой», as «what» can be used instead of «which». But the use of «что» instead of «какой» is tricky in Russian:
    Какой сегодня день недели? — Что за день недели сегодня?
    Какой он человек? — Что он за человек?

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    Re: "What" is the difference between "что" and "каков"?

    SAN, you're just puzzling them up.
    Your examples are rather exception, but the general meaning of какой is really a question for an adjective.
    Каков = short + old form for какой. Use какой instead.

    And it's "что за" instead of "какой".
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    Re: "What" is the difference between "что" and "каков"?

    bitpicker
    Какой / каков ask for one piece of information out of a number, such as 'what suggestions do you have?' - note that in English you can replace the 'what' in the second sentence with 'which', but not the one in the first. So I would say you can use forms of каков when you can use 'which' instead of 'what' in English.
    No, you can't.

    каков is very rare and limited mostly to an archaic or bookish style, it is used to ask what smt is like. You might go through life and never have to use this word or bump into it.

    'Which' and 'what' are both translated as 'какой'. The difference is only figured out from context.
    If my post contains errors of any kind, I'd appreciate anyone setting me straight.

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    Re: "What" is the difference between "что" and "каков"?

    So what is the difference between "каков" и "какой"? И "что"? I remain thoroughly confused on all these points.

    Is it just bad luck that I have bumped into "каков" so early in my studies?
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    Re: "What" is the difference between "что" and "каков"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pretty Butterfly
    So what is the difference between "каков" и "какой"? И "что"? I remain thoroughly confused on all these points.

    Is it just bad luck that I have bumped into "каков" so early in my studies?
    "какой" normally refers to an adjective in a normal form.
    "каков" normally refers to an adjective in a short form.

    Short form adjectives (as well as "каков") in contemporary Russian are rare, look old-fashioned and often have specific stylistic color: bookish or old. Though they are used in a number of traditional fixed phrases like proverbs etc.

    As for in which situation which word should be used - I think it is mainly a matter of practice. Sometimes those words are interchangeable, sometimes no. Read more examples and texts and you will get used to it.
    "Россия для русских" - это неправильно. Остальные-то чем лучше?

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    Re: "What" is the difference between "что" and "каков"?

    The idea behind что is just 'what' as in 'what did you say?' - что ты сказал? In a question it enquires after something in general.

    Какой enquires after something out of a number of things, defined by a quality. It's like asking 'what type ist it?' or 'which one is it?' instead of 'what is it?'.

    There was one example given in this thread: Какой сегодня день недели? Which day of the week is it today? There is a number of possible answers; you know it must be one out of the seven days, and you want to know which it is.

    Often, as has been said in this thread, you enquire after a quality, which is usually expressed with an adjective: Which / what color is your car? Какого цвета твоя машина? Красного (red, literally 'of red', using genitive case).

    So when you ask 'what kind of', 'what type of' or anything like that, use какой.
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    Re: "What" is the difference between "что" and "каков"?

    The idea behind что is just 'what' as in 'what did you say?' - что ты сказал?
    In a question it enquires after something in general.

    another meaning is "that" as in "I told you that ..." - я сказал тебе, что ...

    It's like asking 'what type ist it?' or 'which one is it?' instead of 'what is it?'.
    Which one is it? - it's for КОТОРЫЙ
    Какой usually asks about a quality or a property, or when you can choose out of several variants.
    Another month ends. All targets met. All systems working. All customers satisfied. All staff eagerly enthusiastic. All pigs fed and ready to fly.

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    Re: "What" is the difference between "что" and "каков"?

    I still don't fully understand but I will try out some examples:

    What type of car is it? = Какой (because I am asking about the qualities of something)
    What time is it? = Что (because there are many, many possible times that it could be)
    Which train are you taking? = Какой (because there are only a few possible trains that you could take)
    What do you think? = Что (because there aren't a fixed number of opinions that you can have, it's a more "open" question).

    Is that the difference? That что is used when the answer is very "open" and could be anything, wheras какой is used when there are only so many possible answers? Or am I still way off?
    Learning Russian through self-study since 12th March, 2010. Current progress: On New Penguin Russian Course lesson 7.
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    Re: "What" is the difference between "что" and "каков"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pretty Butterfly
    I still don't fully understand but I will try out some examples:

    What type of car is it? = Какой (because I am asking about the qualities of something)
    What time is it? = Что (because there are many, many possible times that it could be)
    Which train are you taking? = Какой (because there are only a few possible trains that you could take)
    What do you think? = Что (because there aren't a fixed number of opinions that you can have, it's a more "open" question).

    Is that the difference? That что is used when the answer is very "open" and could be anything, wheras какой is used when there are only so many possible answers? Or am I still way off?
    I think you are on the right track. The problem for English speakers is that although Что/Какой roughly corresponds to What/Which, the Russian and English versions do not overlap cleanly. You found a good example:

    Which train are you taking?
    What train are you taking?

    Both are correct in English, but you can only use какой in Russian.

    What train? = какой
    What day? = какой
    What color? = какой
    What <noun>? = какой

    What is usually что, but when you say "what" in the sense of "which one of <noun>", it's какой. Basically, if you can use both what/which in English, use какой in Russian. After some practice, you'll develop a feel for this.

    Note: "What time is it?" is not a good example for this area of grammar because that question is rendered in a totally different way in Russian: Сколько времени?

    ---

    Now I have a question. How would I translate a "what" question with a definite article: (ex) "What is the plan?" I'm not asking which because there can only be one, but I want to know what the nature of it is. Что такое?
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    Re: "What" is the difference between "что" and "каков"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pretty Butterfly
    What type of car is it?
    Какого типа эта машина? (concrete)
    Что это за машина? (very general)

    What time is it?
    Который час?
    ("Which hour is it?")
    Remember this phrase, this is only grammatically safe way to ask what time is it.

    Which train are you taking? = Какой
    OK
    Какой поезд вам нужен?

    What do you think? = Что.
    OK
    Что вы думаете?

    I still think that theory here can only confuse you.

    Quote Originally Posted by почемучка
    "What is the plan?"
    Какой у тебя план? (Colloquial.)
    В чем состоит твой план? (Literary.)
    "Россия для русских" - это неправильно. Остальные-то чем лучше?

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    Re: "What" is the difference between "что" and "каков"?

    Quote Originally Posted by it-ogo
    I still think that theory here can only confuse you.
    I'm not sure I could get any more confused, but I'll take your word for it!

    More practically, could I use "Что зто?" in a restaurant, pointing to items on the menu, if I would like a description of what they are?
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    Re: "What" is the difference between "что" and "каков"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pretty Butterfly
    More practically, could I use "Что зто?" in a restaurant, pointing to items on the menu, if I would like a description of what they are?
    Yes, you can. I'v just noticed that this sentence recalls Obama's election slogan.
    Please, correct my mistakes, except for the cases I misspell something on purpose!

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    Re: "What" is the difference between "что" and "каков"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Basil77
    Quote Originally Posted by Pretty Butterfly
    More practically, could I use "Что зто?" in a restaurant, pointing to items on the menu, if I would like a description of what they are?
    Yes, you can. I'v just noticed that this sentence recalls Obama's election slogan.
    It's okay. This is grammar we can believe in.
    Пожалуйста, исправляйте мои бесконечные ошибки!

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    Re: "What" is the difference between "что" and "каков"?

    But it should be что это.
    Спасибо за исправления!

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    Re: "What" is the difference between "что" and "каков"?

    Quote Originally Posted by bitpicker
    But it should be что это.
    Thanks. I didn't even pick that one up on re-reading, I had to copy paste and increase the size before I could even see the mistake!
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    Re: "What" is the difference between "что" and "каков"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Selexin
    каков is very rare and limited mostly to an archaic or bookish style, it is used to ask what smt is like. You might go through life and never have to use this word or bump into it.
    каков is neither rare nor archaic. It's an essential word which cannot be replaced by any other in some cases, and perhaps its usage should indeed be limited to those cases. But that doesn't make it rare in the least. An excellent example would be, Каковы ваши намерения? Or, Каковы ваши дальнейшие действия?

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    Re: "What" is the difference between "что" and "каков"?

    "Каков" - это довольно устарелая форма.
    Почти всегда можно заменить "каков" на "который" (хотя мне кажется - всегда можно заменить).
    Например:
    1.Каков красавец! ------------------ Какой красавец! ( Так даже лучше звучит)
    2.Каков твой новый рекорд ? -------------------- Какой твой новый рекорд?---------------Какой у тебя новый рекорд?
    3.Каково же это - быть птицей? (Так всё-же звучит лучше) ----------------- Как же это - быть птицей?( но можно и так)

    Поверьте, такие фразы как "Каков твой новый рекорд ?","Каков красавец!" и другие подобные фразы с прилагательным "каков" , вы можете встретить только в старых произведениях - сейчас так уже никто не говорит.

    То есть вы всегда сможете безболезненно заменить "каков", "какова", "каково" на "какой", "какая" и "как".

    Разве что есть пара случаев, когда лучше все же немножко по-другому заменить, например:
    "Какова его цель?" лучше заменить не на "какая его цель?", а на "какая у него цель?".
    Хотя на самом деле , конечно, можно сказать и "какая его цель?", вам за это ничего плохого не скажут. )

    И напоследок, такие фразы как "Какова его цель", "каков его план?", "Какова его дальнейшая судьба?","Каково же ему так живется?" и тому подобные, итак хорошо звучат, но если вы замените на аналогичные - ничего страшного не будет.

    Надеюсь, я вас не запутал)
    Если возникнут вопросы - пишите!

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