"The garlic is on the plate."
Translation:L'aglio è nel piatto.
It's the common way to use the word in this context. We consider the plate as a container, like a bottle or a glass, and then we use more often "NEL piatto".
Prepositions are indeed tricky!
let me take you back to the "mouse is in the book" I'm confused since they use nello, does that mean the mouse is a character in the book, the mouse is sitting on the book or indeed is the mouse crushed within the book. We should be told. I'm not sure now is the garlic sitting on the plate, in a stencil on the plate or indeed did some fool bake the garlic into the plate?
Seriously though, what are the rules about nel and nello?
Nel and nello are prepositions combined with the definite articles which stand before nouns. So "nel" is the result of combining the preposition IN+ IL piatto. IN mostly means literally "in something" and IL before a noun describes it as a masculine singular noun. So for a female singular noun it would be IN+LA=nella. There is also a masculine singular noun LO, as in lo zaino(a backpack) so IN+LO= nello. As for the use of prepositions such as IN, A, DI, DA etc there are various uses for each one and although there are rules, there are also many exemptions so don't try to rationalize TOO much and try to get them in your ear instead. Hope this helps
I thought nel meant in and sul meant on..shouldn't it be L'aglio e' sul piatto