I agree with Peter that it is a strange one but as odd as it may be, 'on doit l'accepter'.
Just to recap -
1. When 'on' means 'we', the past participle will agree in gender and number to whom it refers to:
Marianne et moi (Cécile), on est allées au Portugal pour nos vacances d'été.
On est sortis en bande avec des copains hier soir.
On est rentrés tard hier soir après une bonne journée passée en famille.
On s'est séparées à regret, mes amies d'école et moi.
2. When 'On' stands for 'tout le monde', 'les gens', 'en général' , it will stay in the third person singular as in:
On n'est jamais si bien servi que par soi-même = If you want something done right, do it yourself
Quand on a reçu un don, on a des obligations = When you receive a gift, it creates obligations
Hope this helps!
there are numerous posts and explanations under this topic already. Can you point to what explicitly you don't understand?
Well, what can I say. A language is not math.
The only difference is this: nous sommes allées is normal register and on est allées is informal. So in essence, you'd always use nous when talking to people you vouvoie and probably switch to on with people you tutoie.
Sometimes one needs to know the reason "WHY" an expression is used in addition to knowing HOW, WHEN and WHERE it is used. It's the difference between memorizing a language and understanding it. It would be interesting to know how this usage evolved...As non-native speakers we need all the help we can get!
I’ve been wondering about this topic myself and after poking around a bit, here are my two cents: strictly grammatically speaking (go ask the Académie Française if you don’t trust their website) you are never wrong if you leave on as masculine singular. That is why, historically, there was no agreement with on. Fin d’histoire.
That said, not everyone cares what the Immortels say about the language, so people like us, whether writers, native speakers or francophiles, make our own adjustments to the language as time goes by. If they make sense to enough people, they tend to stick- at least for a while- and may fall back out of favor down the road. Language only lives on by evolving with the people who speak it.
A professor of mine in Paris used to talk about various exceptions in French as being a matter of poetry because something did not suit “le délicat oreille français”. I think the case of the agreement with on is similar, although based on an affront to logic. On some level it doesn’t make sense to use on to designate a clearly plural subject and not make a necessary agreement. From the posts above and what I found on the web, there is a solid logic to the modern agreement with on and I’m sure it will live on in the French language until someone can argue soundly to the contrary.
Vive le débat!
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