Translation:I only have one ruler in my pencil case.
What I find interesting is the conflict between the preposition "în" requiring the absence of the definite article and the pronoun "meu" requiring the presence of the definite article. It seems the pronoun wins, so it is "în penarul meu" and not "în penar meu".
Can a native speaker confirm if this is always the case?
I go to school is "Merg la şcoală". Is, I go to my school "Merg la şcoala mea"?
In general, nouns introduced by prepositions other than "cu" will lose the definite article that you normally use in English. Notable exceptions to this ~rule are the cases where the noun is qualified by an adjective, a possessive pronoun, a "postfix" demonstrative pronoun, etc.
See the complete answer (not from me) here: https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/24838010
I'm having trouble breaking down this sentence, particularly with the use of nu and decât.
I gave "I do not have a ruler in my pencil case" as an answer and it was marked incorrect. If I was to provide a literal translation it might be "I do not have than a ruler in my pencil case". This might make sense if we used the word "then" instead of "than", but I do not think decât works that way. I've only learned nu is used to negate and decât is used to compare things. This seems to be a way of phrasing things that hasn't been explained to me yet. Looking at the dictionary hints, however, I don't think I still would of thought the correct English translation is the one they give.
Yes, it doesn't seem to have a literal English translation. I suspect it's closest to the slightly old fashioned "I have but one ruler in my pencil case".
Regarding the use of nu here, I've noticed that Romanian sometimes piles on multiple negatives in a sentence without them cancelling out like they would in English. For example, nu am nimic means "I have nothing" but literally it translates as "I don't have nothing" which is sometimes used in a few regional dialects in English ("I ain't got nothing") but technically means the exact opposite ("I have something").
If you wanted to use "but" (eg in an older style of English) it would be "I have but one ruler in my pencil case", without "not". Remember that Romanian uses a double negative, which standard English doesn't.
BTW, this construction is exactly the same in French:
"Je n'ai qu'une règle dans ma trousse"
Except that that sounds terrible to a British ear (mine). It looks like I don't have than a ruler literally but I guess this is the different Romanian construction compared to English. Interestingly, if I say "I have only one ruler in my pencil case." that means there are not two or more rulers there. If I said "I only have a ruler in my pencil case" it also rules out other objects, If I say "I have only a ruler in my pencil case" it also rules out other objects as the idea of counting rulers (introduced by the word 'one' is removed. The sentences above that rule out other objects may do so entirely if there is no particular context or partially in relation to specific objects that were talked or enquired about in context: Question: "Do you have a catapult in your pencil case which I could flick this pellet at the teacher with?" Answer "I have only a ruler in my pencil case." Which ruler was, of course, mostly used for flicking little pellets of chewed paper at people!