It's subtle, like the difference between "I'm at their restaurant" = אני במסעדה שלהם (you could be waiting outside the door), and "I'm inside their restaurant" = אני בתוך המסעדה שלהם (sitting at a table).
Wait, so does that mean that it's not correct to use -ב before objects that don't start with -ה?
Bet combines with hey if you want to write "in the" vs "in". You'd spell it the same. From COLLOQUIAL HEBREW:
Inseparable prepositions You may have noticed that unlike English the prepositions ‘to’ l’ , ‘from’ mi’ and ‘in’ b’ are single letters attached to the noun they precede. These are known as ‘inseparable prepositions’. NB An apostrophe will indicate an inseparable preposition in our transliteration. ‘mi’ becomes me’ before silent letters and some gutturals; e.g. me’oxford. You will however often hear Israelis using mi’ in all cases.
Inseparable prepositions + ‘the’ When the prepositions b’ and l’ are attached to definite nouns, ‘the’ is dropped and are pronounced ba and la. It is useful to show the vowels here in order to explain how this works (see vowel table on p. 14): Example: in an office (b’misrad) ; in the office (ba’misrad) Without vowels, the words look the same but you will know how to pronounce them correctly from the context.
NB Our third inseparable preposition ‘from’ mi’ does not contract when combined with ha’ : from the office me’ha’misrad Remember that proper names are definite by nature and do not take ‘the’ . The prepositions therefore do not change either. In Tel Aviv is b’tel-aviv . Composite names such as the Sheraton Hotel are also definite, are not preceded by in Hebrew, and the prepositions and do not change: in the Sheraton Hotel is b’malon sheraton
It gives the sentence a different feeling, which I really can't think of how to explain. But yeah, you could say that.
It literally means the same thing but in English* they have different context of when they are used more (I think). Inside of the restaurant is used when the focus of the sentence is your location. (But it's not used a lot in comparison to "in the restaurant.") Example: Where are you now? I'm inside OF Fancy (or the name of the restaurant) right now, near the back.
OR: I'm AT a restaurant right now, can I call you back?
Or: We're IN a restaurant, we'll be finished in an hour.
(This is East Coast (New York, Boston, Florida) American English.
Could one also just say, "I am in their restaurant"? I don't think 'inside of' is used very often in English ... or perhaps only when the focus is on something being contained within something else.
I am learning too but i'd think it would just be the prefix of bet
במסעדה, and not inside the restaurant, the same as English.