i am pretty sure this is how it works. think of "on" as meaning the arbitrary subject "one" for example, saying "in america, one eats fries with their burger" is identical to saying "in america, we eat fries with our burgers." but saying "we need help" is NOT the same as saying "one needs help." so conclusively "on" is a situational subject and really it is more helpful to think of it as "one" than we.
Originally yes, and in some cases it is the equivalent of "one" or an impersonal/general "we" as given in your good examples.
Yet in French, "on" is used intensively, everyday and almost exclusively as a proper "we" meaning "you and I" (except in really formal situations / speeches / literature, where "nous" will be used).
- "Mes amis et moi, on va souvent dans ce bar" = "My friends and I, we often go to that bar".
If you said "Mes amis et moi, nous allons souvent dans ce bar", it would sound a bit posh, old-fashioned or... well, just foreign ! ;-)
I wss always taught to think of "on" as one. Like one does this one applies.its more of a grouped indvidual idea kinda sorta. Like its refering to an individal in a socital group sorta. Just think of it in cintext of like a door sign "one does not enter without a shirt" its a single person but like its acknowledge a groups activity. I hope that made some sense.
@Hohenems. Hmmm. So are you making a fine line in context here? What is NOT being said vs what IS being said? I can explain to my friend when he asks "What are you doing?" and I am in a group I can say On mange? But I cannot say "On mange un poulet". There I must say "Nous mangeons un poulet"?? Yes? No? Or have I utterly missed the finer French?
You can say "On mange du poulet".
I'm not going to try and reinvent the wheel. Here's a very good explanation. http://french.about.com/od/grammar/ss/subjectpronouns_5.htm
you can say both. now, if you are in select company, , you will say NOUS and not ON. it is quite a question of educational and class level. Like in Spanish for instance the vocabulary can be very different ( especially in Latin America) according to which social class you belong.
Because "on" is etymologically the equivalent to "one" in English, as in "One needs recognition in one's job and relationships": here you clearly see it takes the third person singular conjugation.
Thing is, in French its use in everyday life has shifted from "someone / anybody / everybody" to "we / (all of) us". Even in that sense, it keeps the singular for the verb conjugation, but the subsequent adjectives / complements can take the plural form.
Technically, and etymologically, it is "One eats" (you can clearly see the similarity between "on" and "one").
But, it would mean that only if the context shows that you're being general:
"On mange bien dans ce restaurant" = "One eats well in this restaurant" = (in better English:) "The food is good in this restaurant".
"On m'a dit qu'il va pleuvoir demain" = "[Some]one told me it's going to rain tomorrow".
Yet, we ALWAYS use "on" as subject for "nous" in oral, everyday French. "Nous" sounds really really literal / posh / serious / formal...
Because technically "let's eat" is an imperative tense, while "on mange" is indicative. "Let's eat" should be "Mangeons" in French.
Still, in reality, an equivalent to such a sentence in French "Allez, on mange !" would be "Come on, let's eat" in English.
I would've marked you correct, but be aware they're not the same tenses
In Duolingo's "Tips and notes" of this section there is information that "On" is "always masculine and third-person singular, which is why conjugation charts often list il/elle/on together". Is this really only masculine? On the site mentioned above : http://french.about.com/od/grammar/ss/subjectpronouns_5.htm , there are 4 samples: On est tombé , feminine: On est tombée. plural: On est tombés. feminine plural: On est tombées. What dose then "masculine" mean in Tips and notes?
Additonally, how to understand above samples? Based on Doulingo's tips "on" is " third-person singular". So why samples mentioned "tombées", "tombés", so plural ? Thanks in advance for support :)
Remember that "on" can mean "one" as a general, impersonal subject (e.g. One should eat 5 veggies/fruits a day) and also a colloquial but extremely frequently used "we".
In any case, the rule of [masculine] singular must apply to the verb used with "on", i.e. "on est", "on va", "on veut", etc. whether it means "one" or "we".
Then, the agreement in number and gender depends on the meaning (one VS we) ; if it's "one", as in "someone", of course it remains singular. If it means "we", then you should (some people say you "can") agree in number, i.e. use the plural just like in your example "On est tombés" (= We fell / have fallen).
But the "on est tombée" makes no sense: the feminine can only appear in plural form, i.e. girls/women saying "On est tombées". One girl / woman would never say "On" when talking about herself !
The only possibility I can think of is when you use "on" about the person you're talking to. That figure of speech does not exist in English, I think, and is quite colloquial. Imagine a parent talking to their child :
- Alors, on est tombé de son vélo ?! (So, you fell off your bicycle ?!)
Using "on" in that particular case is a bit like saying "Haha, someone has touched my stuff, I see..." when you know exactly that it is the person you're talking to who did it. Thus, the meaning of that "on" is the neutral, impersonal one; it's as if you wanted to remain vague, not to point the person. In that case, again, it wouldn't make much sense to use the feminine; at least I'd never seen that before and it's not common. But right now, it's the only possibility I can think of (so, if you're talking to your daughter, it would be "Alors, on est tombée de son vélo ?").
Sorry, I didn't express myself clearly in that paragraph ; the maculine singular must apply to the verb... when it's compound i.e. with a participle such as "tombé" for instance.
Actually, the singular applies to the verb, the masculine possibly to what follows (adjective, participle,...).
Of course, no simple verb on its own has the mark of the gender ; I've never written that "est" or "va" is masculine or feminine. In your example, only the past participle "tombé" (fallen) can be either masc. or fem. :-)
So is using "on" instead of "nous" a cultural shift in a recent generation, or something used in France but not other French-speaking places, or something along those lines? I was always taught that "on" was much more situational and similar to "one". My French teacher this year, a native speaker from Haiti, had said that it was often used in formal writing and especially when it talking about achievements would seem like bragging (similar to the taboo against "I" and "me" in formal English writing). He also included a story about a friend using it so often it felt like a humble brag more than anything else. So is this a generation/cultural thing, or is it different when you're using it in place of "je", or something completely different?