"We do not have anything on the plate."
Translation:Non abbiamo nulla nel piatto.
"Qualcosa" does mean "anything", but only in positive sentences; not when you negate.
I don't like anything. I like anything.
Even though it's the same word, its meaning is much different. In Italian it'd be:
Non mi piace niente. Mi piace qualcosa.
In the sentence of this exercise, it's a negative sentence, so you need to indicate that "We have nothing on the plate", or what would be the same "We don't have anything on the plate.".
That's why you can't use "qualcosa", and you need "nulla".
I think (though stand to be corrected) that Italian, like French, often uses double negatives to make a negative construct. To Anglicize it, Italians would say "We do not have nothing". For example, "I have nothing" would be "Non ho niente". 'Qualcosa' is a positive, so does not complete the double negative pairing.
Correct .. even triple negatives. This site helps to see the pattern
Because we're not talking about the adjective nulla/nullo, but the pronoun/adverb form. Which is only nulla. http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/italian-english/nulla