"הם לא נוגעים בצלחות."
Translation:They don't touch the plates.
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Is there a logic to ב in this context, or is it just one of those "Hebrew is different from English, get used to it" things? I know ב as essentially meaning "in", which is really weird for me in this context. Does it have a secondary meaning or is it just a case of being used differently?
It's one of these cases; but note that the preposition ב has another major meaning other than "in", and that is the meaning of an instrument or means by which the subject does the action - in English it's usually "with". So "She hit him with a bat" - "היא הכתה אותו במחבט". Or "he saw it with his own eyes" - "הוא ראה את זה במו עיניו". (Sadly, in spoken Hebrew this usage os ב lost a lot of ground to עם - people will more likely say "היא הכתה אותו עם מחבט" - but purists consider עם wrong here, and I wouldn't expect it in literature or a newspaper.)
Here "plates" is not an instrument or a means, but maybe it's a bit closer to a means than to a physical or temporal location (the "in" meaning of ב).
It only means not physically touching, but I guess by way of exaggeration you might say that if they did touch them but didn't eat anything. Also, I think in restaurants lingo (between waiters and cooks) צלחות often refers to the food, so it's more likely. Among most people צלחות is not used for the food.
Thanks! I see now that while Pealim translates the verb only as "to touch (ב־)", Morfix says
"to touch; (colloquial) to taste (food); (colloquial) to hurt, to damage; to touch on; (colloquial) to interest, to concern"
For "What about dinner", would the separate word על work instead of the ל prefix?
Any comment on the other uses given by Morfix?
For the meaning of "concerning" it has to be ל, can't be על. Or did you mean אל? It can be used only when attached to a pronoun: בנוגע אליהם, acceptable alternative to בנוגע להם, but not with a longer noun phrase (בנוגע אל הארוחה doesn't work).
I think Morfix went a bit wild here. It can mean "taste" (food) in the negative, as in הוא לא נגע באוכל, but in English it would be more natural with "touch". It can be "hurt", also in the negative - the exclamation לא נגעתי בו - but again it's just the English "I didn't touch him". BTW, I'm reminded that the novel "To kill a mockingbird" was translated אל תיגע בזמיר, and I could never could understand this softening. The movie was translated מות הזמיר, and ditto.
SabriSamee, note that צלחות by itself means "plates"; ב is a prefix and it's the preposition that danny mentions.
To say "They don't touch plates", without "the", בצלחות is pronounced betzalakhót. In this sentence, with "the", בצלחות is pronounced batzalakhót. That initial ba sound comes from combining "be" + "ha", so we don't see the ה at all.
To read more about this, see the "In / in the - בּ" section near the bottom of the Tips for the "Present 1" skill on the website. It's also in the compilation of Tips at
Also, when a word has a preposition before it, we don't use את before it.
It could certainly be "they are not touching the plates" (without the preposition "on").
The top thread on this page, beginning with the post by flootzavut, discusses the significance of the Hebrew preposition ב in this sentence, especially the explanation by Yarden at