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I am learning Russian using Duolingo as a resource. One of the questions in an exercise was to translate the following into English:

Стол на месте

I (maybe naively) interpreted it as Table/Desk on place. The answer they were after was The table is in the right place.

How am I supposed to infer that from the above? What can I do in the future to help with things like this?

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    There are two likely meanings for this phrase: "Table has not been moved" (from its rightful place) and "Table has been delivered". – Alexander Jul 23 '18 at 20:12
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You are not supposed to infer anything - you need to memorize. Language constructs differ in different languages, even closely related.

How one should infer that "we are short on onion" is about not having onion - Russian speaker does not say мы коротки на лук - yet, this is exactly how one says it in English and one should just remember it.

This holds true about thousands of other phrases.

However, in this particular case may be it would be helpful to think of this phrase as of shortened form of:

Стол на [cвоём] месте

Which is literally the table is on it's place.

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  • After small corrections the literal (word-by-word) phrase 'the table is on it's place' would look like 'the table is in its place', but that would tend to mean '... in place of something else' : idioms.thefreedictionary.com/in+its+place . So the version 'the table is in place' would be better. – Alex_ander Jul 22 '18 at 19:55
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    P.S. 'Short on smth.' is typically used with abstract nouns like bravery, common sense, etc. idioms.thefreedictionary.com/short+on So 'short on onion' (compared to 'short of onions') sounds too idiomatic (not necessarily about shortage of vegetables), reminding of 'to be off one's onion' (спятить). – Alex_ander Jul 22 '18 at 21:34
  • @Alex_ander that's good to know (no irony) - however this exactly phrase I've heard in real life :) – shabunc Jul 22 '18 at 22:05
  • "На месте" may also mean "is there". – yury10578 Jul 23 '18 at 6:23
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The definition of место here is:

  1. Определённое пространство, специально отведённое, предназначенное для кого-, чего-л. или обычно занимаемое кем-, чем-л.

Which is analogous to this definition of place in English:

  1. a portion of space designated or available for or being used by someone.

    • The regular or proper position of something.

It would be similar to the English phrase "the table is in place."

If you look up and match the right definitions of the words, it makes sense!

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