"The food is on the plates."
Translation:Il cibo è nei piatti.
Italian is derived directly from Latin. In Latin, the word "in" (from which "nei" is derived) means both "in" & "on." There is not a separate word for "on" in Latin.
For whatever reason, in Italian you say "in' the plates rather than on.
Prepositions are a nightmare! You would think it would be "on" the plates wouldn't you? This is really comment thread: http://www.duolingo.com/comment/92505
In there @naten makes says that there isn't a one-to-one mapping for prepositions and it seems he is right. Still, it does make sense that the food would be on the plate...
From what my Italian friend has told I am able to understand the difference between Nei vs Sui. SUI is more like sopra (above) and/or mid-air. NEI is understood as inside. I'm guessing that is why most of the sentences on Duolingo use some variation of the prepositional article IN. I hope this helps.
nei is used for nouns where the article would be 'i' - ie. we say 'i piatti', so we say 'nei piatti'
negli is used with nouns where the article would be 'gli' - ie. 'gli uomini' would become 'negli uomini'
...for when to use 'i' vs 'gli' see this very useful page: http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/italian/language_notes/il.html
If a hint is going to be given for "on the" then why in the world are 3 incorrect forms given: sul, sulla, sulle and an accepted answer "sui" not? And in the DL translation above they further use "nei" which isn't even one of the 3 hints given.
After some thought: the dropdowns are compiled presumably by the same people at DL who put together the example sentences. What it looks like it the left hand doesn't have any idea what the right hand is doing. If the dropdowns don't know the context, as you suggest, then they ought to, so that they can provide helpful hints rather than blind alleys..
If you would like to program an artificial intelligence that can do so I'm sure they would be happy to hear from you.
The dropdowns are a bit like looking a word up in a dictionary and seeing all the words that might have that meaning, but without the context. And I'm fairly sure that it is not a trivial problem to have it have the right context.
NO, there's a big difference. The dropdown hints are or should be generated by the same people who think up these sentences, so they DO have the context in which the words are being used. That's the difference. If on the other hand two separate groups within DL are responsible for the example sentences and the hints then they should talk with one another and correlate their efforts. It's that simple.
I'm not sure when the drop-downs are created, but I don't think they are recreated every time a word is used in a new sentence. A word has been used previously, the drop-down exists, DL moves on. Some words have so many meanings, the hints only show a few.
Learning by making mistakes is a learning strategy (not the only one, of course). If the drop-downs were to always give you the correct answers, it would restrict your ability to make errors. And thus learn. DL is right to give hints. Users then have to apply their grammatical knowledge to that hint and make the necessary adaptation. If you get it wrong, DL will give you a 2nd go (and 3rd, and 4th etc) until you get it right.
In a nutshell: being given the correct answer is not an effective way to learn.
I tried "sui piatti" as well as "nei piatti" and both were correct according to DL.
Forms of /'essere' are used mostly as they would be in English as in this example. 'Essere' is also used as a compound past tense auxiliary in which case it would have to be translated into English as a form of 'have'/'had',etc. 'Stare' can mean 'to be' in stock phrases/idioms such as 'sto bene' / 'I'm well'. It is also used in idiomatic phrases such as "sto per partire"/ "I'm leaving' in the sense of 'I am about to leave' or "Sto parlando"/'I'm speaking', meaning at this moment. There are certainly other applications of both verbs and especially in their idiomatic uses they'd have to be noted as they're encountered.