"We cut the cheese."
Translation:On coupe le fromage.
After studying French in Switzerland with a French family, I was told by them (and picked up from the speech around) that "on" is the common way to refer to yourself as a group in an informal setting. Family, friends and so on. "Nous," it would seem, is used among colleagues or adults. Probably to be more polite, as well?
I'm not sure if this will be backed up online or in grammar books, but it's what I found being among French-speakers. Younger people looked at me oddly when I used "nous" as often as I did, so I slowly phased it out and primarily used "on."
AbbigailDee, thank you for your insight into this question. To the others who commented: sometimes Duolingo uses the same content questions in different formats. I got this one as a "mark all possible translations" but somebody else could have got it as a type-in translation. It's funny to see how frustrated we get when Duolingo takes away one of our hearts! Come on, folks... it's just a game!
We aren't talking something that translates to the number one. It is comparable to the use of one in English where it used to mean we. One used in English in the sense that I am talking about refers to all members of an undefined group.
When I write something like ...one doesn't say that sort of thing in polite company....I don't mean only one person in the world. Quite the opposite. I mean many, most, maybe all people wouldn't say it in polite company. I don't say ...we wouldn't say such a thing in polite company ......because that suggests that there is a defined, limited in some way, group that wouldn't say such a thing. By implication, that would mean there is another group that would.
Drawing that distinction in English is regarded as a formal way of speaking and is fairly rare in spoken conversation. So rare that many English speakers are unfamiliar with it. In French, using a form of we (on) in that manner is regarded as informal.
So for those English speakers who find it tricky to figure out what this on business is all about, we are showing them the English comparison. English one/we is the same as French on/we except for the fact that while the English usage is very rare, the French usage is the most common.
It is informal in English to refer to defined groups and very formal to refer to undefined. It is informal in French to refer to undefined groups and more formal to refer to defined groups. Simply telling an English speaker that on is informal doesn't help some of them since it is the exact opposite of the custom in English.
None of this is important if you are learning French by listening to it and speaking it. But if you learning by reading and writing it then such distinctions become the only way to develop correct practices. By speaking and listening to French you quickly self-correct to using the proper form without any need to know about rules such as undefined and defined. It just seems like some forms seem a little more formal and less common than others.
Michael_Greyjoy and Chefie
Both of you write as if we can see the very same question that you refer to. We may or may not be looking at what you are responding to.
Michael_Greyjoy You write as if you were doing a multiple choice question where you selected the first choice as the correct answer. The correct answer for the multiple choice that I am looking at is the third one. From what you write, I take it that you selected only the first one and the response was the third one was correct but you believe the first one should be correct as well.
Because of that you ask if on coupe le fromage is also correct which another poster appropriately indicated it was. The first choice in the question I'm looking at is on coupe DU fromage which Duo indicates is not correct.
You write that you also gave on coupe as the answer which you obviously believe is correct. It's even harder to be sure what you are referring to but assuming you are looking at a multiple choice question and that it is the same one I am looking at, then you should consider that the issue isn't on coupe but what follows it.
Michael_Greyjoy and Chefie
The multiple choice example I am looking at calls for the French translation of we cut the cheese. After the snickering dies down and we look at the first choice we see it refers to some cheese not the cheese.
I made the mistake of taking the first choice to be referring to cutting the cheese even though it clearly said cutting some cheese. I was wrong.
Having just been caught in the self-same trap, I chose in the multiple choice for 'we cut the cheese' both 'on coupe du fromage' AND 'nous coupons le fromage'.
Cutting thru all the excess, your answer of 'after the snickering dies down and we look at the first choice we see it refers to some cheese and not the cheese' strikes me as the balm to assauge my wounds. (just barely, but I have to remember where I am sometimes)
Still, as most of the lesson that this particular choice was presented in hinges on 'On' as being an alternative for 'Nous', it remains, in my mind, a bit of a perilous trap nonetheless.
It is a peculiarity that On is treated as third person singular. On refers to an undefined impersonal group, unlike first person plural nous which refers to a defined group. Strictly speaking, it is not a question of informality.
It may help you to remember by translating On as one in English, which is about as singular a word as you can get. One uses (note the third person singular form uses) English one (French on) to refer to an undefined group, not a single person, even though one doesn't use one much in conversational English. The French do use it a lot however, so one would be well advised to become familiar with On/one.
Because "on" is technically third person singular and conjugates like il or elle, not like nous. It can be used to mean the same as nous, but doesn't take the same conjugation. After all, vous and tu are formal and informal pronouns both meaning you, but they don't take the same verb conjugation.
I would simply like to comment that:
I usually play Duolingo on my smart phone, and it seems primarily on there, "Nous" is used, and not just primarily.. I can't remember the last time they used "On" on my mobile. I recently started using my computer again at home since there is no forum for questions like the ones below and others (for example: Avant, Devant, Aprés, Deriérre have no explanation other than a one word translation, which gets very confusing very quickly and caused me to replay the section maybe 10 times)... i digress...
Coming back to the desktop version I can barely understand when there is no visual hints and just audio comprehension using "On" ... I don't recognize it. Now to hear that it is commonly used, and preferred with my age group, I am disappointed I missed out. One I keep getting wrong is "Est-ce qu-on est propre?" which (i believe) means, "Is one clean?" or "Are we clean?"... but when you listen to this at the speed and proper accent of the online speaker here, it just sounds like "eh ah eh propre" (not sure how to phonetically spell the "r" in that)...
Anywhooo. Just an observation for others and the developers. Please think of this when you are developing the future builds and such. Thank you!