"There is a dog in a car behind the office."
Translation:خَلْف اَلْمَكْتَب كَلْب في سَيّارة.
Well, this is just awful pedagogy. As tsuj1g1r1 explains it, "when the subject of a nominal sentence is indefinite, and the object is a prepositional phrase, you invert their order". That's fine with me (and actually very interesting) when it's explained. Correct me if I'm wrong, but there was nothing in the hints or any of the duolingo course materials explaining this before this example got sprung on us. And this rule is very unlike anything that happens in English (English has lots of unmotivated rules in other areas, such as adjective order, for example). And in general there is very little explanation in this part of the course, and we could have done with a lot more. I'm not happy.
Your sentence is actually quite awkward, and sounds like it says "The dog is situated behind the office," when a dog, not being a stationary object, is not really "situated" anywhere.
It'd sound better if "kalb" was indefinite:
يوجد كلب خلف المكتب
There is a dog behind the office/desk.
Anyway, in Arabic, when the subject of a nominal sentence is indefinite, and the object is a prepositional phrase, you invert their order.
- كلب في سيارة خلف المكتب
is not a grammatical sentence in Arabic. But you move خلف المكتب to the start, and it's actually more idiomatic than any variation including words like هناك or يوجد.
هناك كلب في سيارة خلف المكتب?
The "correct" sentence has "behind the office" describing where the dog is in the car, apparently exclusively, which is a valid interpretation, but crucially the English is ambiguous and "behind the office" can also describe where the car is that the dog is in, which is a meaning I don't get from the "correct" sentence. Am I wrong in this intuition?
This Arabic sentence corresponds to the English if parsed as ‘There is [a dog in a car] behind the office’. I interpreted it as ‘There is a dog in [a car behind the office]’ and translated it as في سَيّارة خَلْف اَلْمَكْتَب كَلْب, which Duo said was wrong. Yet I'd say my interpretation makes more sense, if sense were of any worth in the nonsense world of Duolingo's training sentences.