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


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


on = we/us


On y va!
Let's go!


Q&A

Paola

Kwiziq community member

10 December 2018

2 replies

Why don't we pronounce the first "que" in "On a que ce que l'on mérite?"

I saw this on the video. Thank you.

Steve

Kwiziq community member

10 December 2018

10/12/18

Interesting.

I think the "normal" idiom in French is:

"On n'a que ce que l'on mérite." (literally: one only has that which one deserves).

For the purposes of that video, and to bring it into line with the English idiom, I think the n' has been removed, but not the "que".

I think it should read:

"On a ce que l'on mérite." (literally: one has that which one deserves).

So the orator didn't pronounce the first que, because he didn't think it was there. If he knew it was there, he would have removed it (that's what I think has happened here anyway).

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

11 December 2018

11/12/18

Hi paola,

This is a third party resource so we have no control over it but a good point nevertheless.

I would argue that if you use 'ce que l'on ' ( which could have been 'ce qu'on') you should have 'on n'a' ( with the 'ne' explétif ) to keep the same register .

On n'a que ce que l'on mérite...

Eve

Kwiziq community member

6 December 2018

2 replies

One must sleep at night

Why would you say "Il faut dormir la nuit." instead of "On faut dormir la nuit" for "One must sleep at night"

Chris

Kwiziq community member

6 December 2018

6/12/18

You can say either:

On doit dormir la nuit. Or Il faut dormir la nuit.

Il faut already means "one must" or "it is necessary".

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

6 December 2018

6/12/18

Hi Eve,

The verb 'falloir' only has one form - an impersonal il ---- Il faut

It is similar in meaning to the impersonal 'on doit ..."

If you also look at my answer to a similar question: 

https://progress.lawlessfrench.com/questions/view/il-faut-1

Hope this helps!

Shari

Kwiziq community member

31 October 2018

3 replies

Why can «On ne peut pas stationner ici» mean ‘You cannot park here’ but not ‘We cannot park here’? The verb tense doesn’t match either.

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

1 November 2018

1/11/18

Hi Shari,

'On ne peut pas stationner ici'    is     'You cannot park here'...

The you here applies to everyone, in other words,  it is forbidden to park here.

It is a bit like: 

On ne sait jamais ce que nous réserve l'avenir = You never know what the future holds

Which is a saying for a truth that applies to everyone.

Not sure what you mean about the verb tense not matching...

Shari

Kwiziq community member

1 November 2018

1/11/18

Thanks, Cécile.  I selected all three in my quiz answer - One, You and We - but the answer was just One and You.  I was trying to figure out how I could decipher why We was not included and thought the form of the conjugation (sorry, not tense) ‘peut’ might be an indication.  But ‘peut’ matches the third person spelling so that left me with the question of why You and not We.

Alan

Kwiziq community member

1 November 2018

1/11/18

Hi Shari,

All 3 are correct - I just tried the question myself and it accepted all 3.

With these multiple selection questions, I sometimes find that one of the answers I was sure I had selected is missing. Then it can be confusing when you compare the correct answer with what you supposedly entered. Maybe that's happened to you.

I have a feeling there may be a bug somewhere - perhaps if you click on the answers too quickly.

Claudia

Kwiziq community member

27 October 2018

0 replies

Bon soir. On the video in this lesson I would like to see if I understood well.

On fait que ce l'on peut.        Mange-t-on du riz. The "l" is used to avoid two vowels crashing into eachother and the "t" ??? I've seen the "t" more often than the "l". They are only for a more harmonious flow of the spoken language, but how do you know which to use when?

Ayushi

Kwiziq community member

7 October 2018

2 replies

No quiz is showing for this lesson

Gruff

Kwiziq language super star

7 October 2018

7/10/18

Hi Ayushi - I can see a kwiz so if this is still an issue for you, please take a screenshot and send it in to support. Many thanks!

Ayushi

Kwiziq community member

7 October 2018

7/10/18

Okay!

renwa

Kwiziq community member

31 August 2018

2 replies

why "nous" and "on" aren't followed by the same conjugation of the verb

so is it wrong to say on sommes gentille ? and why ?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

31 August 2018

31/08/18

Yes, it would be wrong. "On" always and without exception takes the verb in 3rd person singular.

renwa

Kwiziq community member

31 August 2018

31/08/18

merci beaucoup :)

Sophia

Kwiziq community member

14 August 2018

1 reply

So i just took the little quiz in the end and I got one wrong because I checked an option that included 'we'.

How do you know whether it is plural or singular besides looking at the verb ending or the article? Thank you so much!

Chris

Kwiziq community member

15 August 2018

15/08/18

Sometimes you know because the participle or an adjective gives it away. Simetimes you only know from context. 

-- Chris. 

Maloyendra

Kwiziq community member

4 May 2018

1 reply

Can't find any micro kwiz here - shows a blank space after "1 of 0"

Gruff

Kwiziq language super star

7 May 2018

7/05/18

Hi - I just checked and this seems fine. Is this still happening for you?

H

Kwiziq community member

3 April 2018

2 replies

"On est gentilS"?

You give the example "On est gentils" - should that be "On est gentil" (i.e. the adjective is singular after 'on' even if I'm using "on" to talk about a group of people)? Or am I mistaken? Thank you.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

3 April 2018

3/04/18

"On" can be used as an informal "we" or a more impersonal, general subject like the English "one". Depending on which one it is, one uses either the plural (when used as "we") or the singular (when used as "one").

On est allés au cinéma hier soir. -- We went to the movies yesterday evening.
Olivier et moi, on est mariés. -- Oliver and I, we are married.
Quand on est poli, on accueille les invités. -- If one is polite, one welcomes the guests.

The first two sentences are examples of "on" meaning "we"; the last one features "on" as "one".

-- Chris (not a native speaker).

H

Kwiziq community member

3 April 2018

3/04/18

Thank you, that's very helpful.

Judy

Kwiziq community member

17 March 2018

3 replies

Are we going out?

Judy

Kwiziq community member

17 March 2018

17/03/18

It was a wrong answer when I used "allons-nous sort?" for this kwiz question. Why is it wrong?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

17 March 2018

17/03/18

Hi Judy, 

the lesson is about "on", hence I suspect the answer is looking for a construction using it. 

On sort -- Are we going out. 

Nous sortons? -- Are we going out (using nous in place of on). 

Va-t-on sortir? -- Are we going to go out?

Allons-nous sortir? Are we going to go out (using nous). 

"Allons-nous sort" is incorrect because need the infinitive (sortir) after the conjugated verb. "Sortir" means "to go out" it can't be used as an adjective for "out". 

-- Chris (not a native speaker). 

Judy

Kwiziq community member

19 March 2018

19/03/18

Thank you Chris.  I did finally realize that the verb was not the proper tense in my answer--but not until after I had posted the question!

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