On = we, one, people

On : we

Look at these examples:

On est très proches, ma soeur et moi.
We are very close, my sister and I.


On va au cinéma ce soir
We're going to the cinema tonight.


On y va!
Let's go!

This use of "on" is for a specific group of people of which you're part: e.g. 'My friends and I'.

Here "on" is equivalent in meaning to "nous" (we), though they aren't followed by the same conjugation of the verb:

On est gentils.
We're nice.


Nous sommes gentils.
We're nice.

See also Nous vs on (subject pronouns)

On : one/you/people

You can also use 'on' in a more general sense like this:

Si on travaille dur, on gagne plus
If you work hard you earn more

Here "on" includes Men/people in general, or can be a theoretical statement such as"one <does that>".

This form is often used when expressing rules such as:

On ne doit pas parler la bouche pleine.
People mustn't speak with their mouths full.

 

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

On est gentils.
We're nice.


On ne doit pas parler la bouche pleine.
People mustn't speak with their mouths full.



Nous sommes gentils.
We're nice.


on = one/you/people/we


Si on travaille dur, on gagne plus
If you work hard you earn more


on = we


On est très proches, ma soeur et moi.
We are very close, my sister and I.


On va au cinéma ce soir
We're going to the cinema tonight.


on = we/us


On y va!
Let's go!


Q&A

Michelle

Kwiziq community member

12 April 2019

0 replies

It should be clear that more than one answer is expected per question, if applicable.

Gwen

Kwiziq community member

4 April 2019

1 reply

It seems Kwiziq is counting things as unanswered when I have answered them.

Also, how do I get to take the quiz again after looking over the material again?

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

5 April 2019

5/04/19

Hi Gwen,

Re-post using the Help & Support feature under ‘Tools’ as this is a language forum.

Stella

Kwiziq community member

25 March 2019

2 replies

Greetings! Could someone please tell me why «On ne peut pas stationner ici» cannot be translated to “one cannot park here?” ...thank you!

We know that “on” has been explained to mean “one” (in general terms) just like in English, in which case in the sentence above it would mean “no one is allowed to park here, generally”. So I am confused by the fact that, the answer to the multiple choice questions did not include the above option as a valid answer :(

Chris

Kwiziq community member

27 March 2019

27/03/19

I guess that the options to the multiple choice question don't necessarily have to contain all possibly correct answers. You're just supposed to choose from among those given. But I can't tell for sure because I don't know the exact question and set of answers.

Stella

Kwiziq community member

31 March 2019

31/03/19

Thanks Chris for taking the time to respond. My apologies for not including the set of answer choices that came with the question. I will post them when I find them :). Great day to you!

Riya

Kwiziq community member

17 March 2019

1 reply

where do we use on?

Michelle

Kwiziq community member

18 March 2019

18/03/19

I'm not sure what you mean by where? In what kind of situation? On is more informal than nous. So in writing and formal situations, you'd use nous more often while you'd use on in casual conversations and writing (like texts and emails to a friend).

Jan

Kwiziq community member

10 March 2019

4 replies

Pense-t-on means`Is it thought'?

Pense-t-on que Caligula était fou?

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

11 March 2019

11/03/19

Hi Jan, 

If you take a look at the following lesson on the passive voice, using 'on' is one of the way to avoid  it...

https://progress.lawlessfrench.com/revision/glossary/voice/la-voix-passive-passive-voice.

When you don't know who 'on' refers to -

On dit qu'il est parti sans payer = it is said the he left without paying

On a trouvé une carte d'identité dans le jardin = An identity card has been found in the garden

Hope this helps!

Chris

Kwiziq community member

11 March 2019

11/03/19

Yes, pense-t-on means "Does one think..."

It could also mean "Do we think" but the inverted form of the question, which is used primarily in a higher register of French, clashes with the more colloquial use of on meaning "we".

Jan

Kwiziq community member

11 March 2019

11/03/19

So, to make a question, just inflect `On dit/peut dire que Caligula était fou? 

Jan

Kwiziq community member

11 March 2019

11/03/19

Good point about mixed registers, thanks.

Faithandrews

Kwiziq community member

8 March 2019

1 reply

Also, On can be used to refer to ''you'' as in lots of people but I thought that was the translation/ role of Vous?

Michelle

Kwiziq community member

18 March 2019

18/03/19

Vous as a plural pronoun adresses a specific group. You--group of people--that I'm talking to right now. On is more general and also more...all encompassing, for lack of a better word. 

To illustrate this with a sentence:

Vous ne devriez pas vous battre-- You two people that I'm talking to shouldn't fight.

On ne devrait pas se battre-- People in general shouldn't fight

I hope that helps (and makes sense).

Faithandrews

Kwiziq community member

8 March 2019

1 reply

since On is used to refer to we/ people etc, why does it make use of the subject verb conjugation of il/elle. eg il est/ on est. Instead of On sommes

Sorry, if my questions may sound dumb but i am a curious person. Not satisfying my curiosity can keep me in a blank world of confusion.

Michelle

Kwiziq community member

18 March 2019

18/03/19

Technically on is the equivalent on "one" meaning one hypothetical person. In English, we also conjugate this in the third person singular. "One is" not "One are" even though "One is responsible for ones own life" can very well mean "We (people) are responsible for our own lives). 

Of course on is also used in ways one cannot be used, to mean we. My guess (and this is just that, a guess) is that the plural usage of on came into use long after its conjugation in third person singular was established and people just kept saying "On est" even in cases where it means "we". It is indeed interesting to think about

Liz

Kwiziq community member

25 February 2019

6 replies

Is it true that the pronouns on and nous can be used anytime we want to indicate we? I’ve heard that using nous is more formal, but is it wrong?

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

25 February 2019

25/02/19

Hi Liz,

Indeed you are right, the French will use 'on' for 'nous' all the time that is why teaching it is so important....

In formal written form, 'nous' will be more elegant...

Hope this helps!

 

Faithandrews

Kwiziq community member

8 March 2019

8/03/19

so they can be interchangeably  but french speakers use ''on'' on daily basis. while ''nous'' is used mostly for very formal and written form?

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

9 March 2019

9/03/19

In a nutshell yes....

Faithandrews

Kwiziq community member

14 March 2019

14/03/19

Thanks for you reply.

Joan

Kwiziq community member

25 March 2019

25/03/19

When we want to say 'we', it is more elegant to use 'nous' instead of 'on', but when we want to say 'you/one/people' in formal writing , can we use 'on'? 

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

26 March 2019

26/03/19

Hi Joan,

In written form, 'on' meaning 'nous' will be avoided ( except perhaps in informal family emails and the like).

Probably the only time you will encounter 'on' in written form (maybe in newspapers)  it will be for the general meaning of one /people/ universal you ...when you can say 'on n'a pas de nom' ...

e.g.

On dit que la pollution humaine est la cause de bien des maux it is said that human pollution is the source of many evils.

Hope this helps!

Jane

Kwiziq community member

22 February 2019

1 reply

On mange du fromage ce matin?

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

27 February 2019

27/02/19

Do you have a question, Jane?

Don

Kwiziq community member

26 December 2018

0 replies

isn't on third person singular and those can mean like we us one in english, "one goes...

How has your day been?