Three different senses of “to ask” are expressed by three different Russian verbs:
|Verb||Meaning||English Example||Russian Translation of Example|
|задать||To present||Ask the question.||Задай вопрос.|
|спросить||To question someone||Ask him what time it is.||Спроси его сколько сейчас времени.|
|попросить||To request a service||Ask him to give us a lift.||Попроси чтобы он нас подвёз.|
Note the distinction between a request for a service (попросить) and a request for information only (спросить).
It is a common error of learners to say “спросить вопрос” in the mistaken belief that this means “to ask a question”. It actually means “to question a question” which is absurd and confusing. Instead you should say “задать вопрос” (to pose a question).
The English noun “people” has two distinct meanings. In its original meaning it is a collective noun meaning the entire body of persons who constitute a tribe, nation, or other group united by a common heritage. In its second (more modern) meaning, people is an alternative plural of “person”. The chart below shows how to translate “people” in its two meanings:
|Tribe, Nation, Group||a people||народ||peoples||народы|
|Human Being||a person||человек||persons or people||люди|
Seeing these two meanings as different takes practice. A few examples will help:
Students assume that since “для” means “for”, “for” can always be translated “для”. This is not true because “для” means “for” only in a particular sense. If by “for” you mean “instead of”, use “за”:
|Я купил этот подарок для вас.||I bought this gift for you [to have].|
|Я купил этот подарок за вас.||I bought this gift for you [to give].|
|Я сделал задание для вас.||I did the assignment for you. (which you gave me)|
|Я сделал задание за вас.||I did the assignment for you. (which you were given)|
This topic is explored more fully in Grammary 12--Translating the Preposition "For".