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What's the function of the word "ли" in the following contexts? I came across of this word in many sentences in a conversation book, and I really don't understand it and where I have to put it. Is there equivalent in English?

Есть ли у вас дети? (Have you got any children?)

Могу ли я пригласить вас на обед? (May I invite you to lunch?)

  • This is the synonymous to English ', don't you?'. – ivan866 Feb 22 at 2:10
  • Is there equivalent in English? — in British English it would be innit. – user28434 Feb 22 at 9:42
  • By the way: ли is an enclitic, that is it always takes second place in the sentence! A nice article about enclitics - elementy.ru/nauchno-populyarnaya_biblioteka/431049 (in Russian). – se0808 Mar 10 at 12:31
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Ли is an interrogative particle. It's a function word which you add to the sentences when asking questions.

It's compulsory in indirect polar questions (the questions answerable with yes or no) in Russian, similar to "if" or "whether" in indirect polar questions in English:

Я спросил, есть ли у него дети // I asked him if he had kids.

, but in Russian, unlike English, it may be used in direct polar questions as well, as it is in your examples, if your question starts with a verb.

  • What about "Не он ли опоздал?" It sounds like ли is required here, yet it's a direct polar question. – Andrew Savinykh Feb 22 at 5:48
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    @AndrewSavinykh strictly speaking ли is not required here, не вы потеряли на углу талон на повидло? is perfectly acceptable. But you're right, in questions like вы ли это? ли is required as well, even though вы is not a verb. – Quassnoi Feb 22 at 10:56
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Ли shows the intonation of the verb when the question starts with it. These questions mean the same, just the stress on the first word:

У вас есть дети? Есть ли у вас дети? (А) Дети у вас есть?

Я могу пригласить вас на обед? Могу ли я пригласить вас на обед? Вас я могу пригласить на обед? На обед я могу вас пригласить?

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