"Peter is near that school."
Translation:पीटर उस स्कूल के पास है।
Like English prefers subject-verb-object constructions, Hindi prefers subject-object-verb constructions. Since 'Peter' is the subject of the sentence, the correct translation is पीटर उस स्कूल के पास है. That said, you can sometimes change word-order in spoken Hindi to place emphasis on different words. For instance, when asked who is standing near the school, you could say उस स्कूल के पास पीटर है to emphasise that it is Peter (and not anyone else) who is near the school.
I've been translating the sentences all with the subject first:
बिल्ली उस कुर्सी पर बैठी है
Duo suggests: उस कुर्सी पर बिल्ली बैठी है।
गाय गाड़ी के पास बैठी है
Duo suggests: गाड़ी के पास गाय बैठी है।
So now to get in my system that the word order can be like that as well I translate उस स्कूल के पास पीटर है। and it is marked wrong.
I feel tricked and what am I now supposed to understand here? This would just teach me to never deviate from Subject first even though Duo Lingo (and thus probably native speakers) would prefer it the other way around in those first examples.
Can I get a clear explanation for these three sentences please? Because what you said above, it's acceptable for emphasis, would mean that Duo Lingo should not have marked the last one wrong.
You can never go wrong with the subject first but as a native speaker, उस कुर्सी पर बिल्ली बैठी है and गाड़ी के पास गाय बैठी है do sound more natural.
I think it's to do with definiteness. In the above sentences, if I replace बिल्ली with वह बिल्ली (that cat) or मेरी बिल्ली (my cat) which are explicitly definite, the subject-first forms sound more natural. On the other hand, for 'एक बिल्ली' which is explicitly indefinite, the other word order is more natural (ie, same as for just बिल्ली).
Similarly, if I replace गाय with लड़की (a word with which the indefinite article एक is generally not omitted in this context), लड़की गाड़ी के पास बैठी है ('The girl is sitting next to the car) sounds more natural than गाड़ी के पास लड़की बैठी है but गाड़ी के पास एक लड़की बैठी है ( 'A girl is sitting next to the car) sounds more natural than एक लड़की गाड़ी के पास बैठी है.
This kind of shifting of word order from SOV to indicate indefiniteness is analogous to the usage of 'There is' in English which also shifts emphasis. So, बिल्ली उस कुर्सी पर बैठी है = 'The cat is sitting on that chair' and उस कुर्सी पर बिल्ली बैठी है = 'There is a cat sitting on that chair'='A cat is sitting on that chair'.
For a sentence like 'पीटर उस स्कूल के पास है', as I said earlier, the word order can be changed to उस स्कूल के पास पीटर है in spoken Hindi (which is very lax on word order) to shift emphasis. Maybe the reason it's not grammatically sanctioned (yet) in formal Hindi is that the shifted emphasis does not constitute a large enough difference in meaning given that पीटर is always definite.
उस is the indirect form of वह to be used in the oblique case (when it is the object of a postposition).
The noun phrase 'वह स्कूल ' in the sentence is followed by a postposition 'के'. This means it is in the oblique case. 'वह स्कूल ' becomes 'उस स्कूल' in the oblique case which is why the latter must be used.
The 'case' of a word can be understood to be its form that is dependent on its position and function in a sentence. In practice, there are three main cases that a noun or noun phrase can be in.
i) Direct case - This is the 'simple' (or default) case in which the noun phrase appears most often.
ii) Vocative case - The case that a noun is in when it is being directly addressed (Eg: अरे बच्चे ! - Hey kid! - बच्चे is in the vocative case which can be compared to the direct case form 'बच्चा')
iii) Oblique case - This is when the noun/noun phrase is the object of a postposition. For example, in the sentence "I went to my old school yesterday", the noun phrase "my old school" is the object of the preposition 'to'. Similarly, in the Hindi sentence 'हरे डिब्बे में खिलौने हैं' (There are toys in the green box), the noun phrase 'हरे डिब्बे' is the object of the postposition में and is therefore in the oblique case (compare with the direct case form हरा डिब्बा ). The oblique case is actually composed of seven different cases depending on the type of the postposition but this distinction is only important in the case of pronouns.