French tips: what is the difference between "sont" and "sommes"?

I tried to help on the forum, and I met several times this question. Here is my contribution to help Duolingo learners communauty.

The verb TO BE/ Le verbe ÊTRE (conjugaison)


(I) Je suis. (You, singular) Tu es. (he) Il est. (she) elle. a special case: on est (ignore it if you're a beginner)


(You, plural) Vous êtes. (We) Nous sommes. (They, masculine) Ils sont. (They, feminine) Elles sont.

Pronouns are mandatory in French, so, if you want to say "we are" as you used "nous" you have to pick "sommes", to say: "nous sommes) (Look in the table) SOMMES is always SOMMES and never written somme, or anything else.

What's the difference between "sommes" and "sont"; Sommes is always and only used with "nous" and each time you want to say "we are" you have to use the expression "nous sommes", don't think, only memorize it. Sont is always and only used with "elles" or "ils" pronouns. So, each time you want to say "they are" you have to translate it either by "ils sont" or "elles sont", only memorize it.


"Sont" and "Sommes" shouldn't be confused when you hear them, they are very different, but you need to train your ear first.

ILS SONT: (listen several times the audio from Sl0uf, it's the first one) The third one (from PERCE_NEIGE) is the one I recorded for you. (don't look at the translation for "ils sont" it's bad)

ELLES SONT: (don't look at the translation for "elles sont" it's bad)


SONT-ELLES? (I think the second one, mine is better, because the first user has a slight accent.)







I hope it can help you...

March 12, 2014


It might help to clarify the "THEY" portion a little further. I know it may be obvious, but some people might not realize that two people connected with 'and' will also use "SONT". Basically, anything plural third person (Les femmes, hommes, groups in general) normally fits this case.

March 13, 2014

Very good suggestion! I will add a part explaning when to use "they".

March 13, 2014

When I first began learning French, the problem I had in this area was not between "nous sommes" and "ils sont" but "ils sont" and "ils ont" -- couldn't remember which one was for "they are" and which for "they have," and the similar sounds didn't help. Nothing seems to work on problems like this than simple practice and exposure, reading and hearing and repeating each together with proper context.

March 14, 2014

Merci David, ça me donne une idée pour un autre "French tip", pour plus tard...

March 14, 2014

I was about to say that this subject pops up every couple of days and act exasperated ;-) But your post is about offering help and not asking for it. Maybe if you changed the subject to better reflect that you'd get more upvotes... Just saying.

March 12, 2014

Yup, something like "French tip/advice"

The pronoun "on" is much more used in Quebec than it is in France, I think, as we do not really use "nous" as much. I'd argue that "on" makes it easier, because it regularizes another group of people into a conjugation that already corresponds to "elle" et "il". Language economy and all! :)

March 12, 2014

Ok. Good idea, thanks.

March 13, 2014

On is very used in France as well, we almost never say nous in informal conversation.

March 13, 2014

are you kidding me i use on everyday in french it's very important french is not english so don't try to ignore things that does not exist in english

March 15, 2014

Hum, what do you mean, "don't try to ignore things that don't exist in English"? I'm for sure not kidding you, and I have really no idea why you think you need to point out that French is not English. I am quite aware of it, and usually I can say I'm aware of the specificity of my language.

Because maybe you misunderstood me... To you, and to Khaur, I have to say, I did not make a statement about the statistical use of "on" in France, I just brought it up because it felt like my French-from-France family use the form "nous" more than the people around me in Quebec usually do, or so it felt.

That said, it does not surprise me that "On" is so used all around. It really is economical in this way that it generalizes the HE SHE WE into one single person&conjugation (the third person singular). So cheers to that!

March 15, 2014

Who's on first? No, I didn't ask if who is on first, what's on second? No, what is on third... Oh brother. I refer you to the classic joke of misunderstanding eachother by Abbott and Costello, speaking of a baseball game. Some of the comments here remind me of that, as it was just on tv. Merci mon aimes. He he

September 14, 2018

Lol ...if someone here need help in french i will teach it to him / my native language / and maybe he can also teach me spanish

March 13, 2014

I've created a discussion with similar grammar tips here but it didn't seem to gather much attention... I thought we could link these two together. Or maybe create a compendium discussion referencing all these useful grammar tips discussions in one place.

March 14, 2014

I've done it here. Please vote it up, to make it stand out in the French section of the discussion area !

March 14, 2014

I found a great source for learning french from grammar to correct pronunciation altogether with easy explanations.

March 15, 2014

Yes, they're good, thanks, I will add them in the links

March 15, 2014

I can't understand why people struggle with this. Its so easy.

March 13, 2014

Because many people learning french on this site start with english. In english the verb is the same regardles of who we are regarding. So while it may seem simple to some, others have difficulty grasping the differance between the languages.

March 13, 2014

That's not entirely true: the third person singular is different. And to be has a first person singular version as well. So conjugation isn't entirely foreign to English, it's just a lot simpler and more regular in English than it is in French or other languages.

March 13, 2014

I suppose I can agree with that. Haha.

March 13, 2014

Tu as raison, d'où viens-tu?

March 13, 2014

Please don't ever say that to anyone ever. Everyone starts learning somewhere and its a challenge. Think about how you would feel if someone said that to you.

July 24, 2018

D'accord. Oui. As French is only difficult if you haven't yet learned it so too is English, if you haven't yet learned it. Au revoir and probably adieu to this forum. But I gave an ingot to the person who said that we are just learning.

September 14, 2018

Please see my comments for you above . D'accord

September 14, 2018

Nice sharing... Thanks.

March 15, 2014

Merci !

March 14, 2014

You helped me so much! Was getting very frustrated hopefully this helps me out now :) thank you for your info :)

May 8, 2014

Thanks, I'm glad to have helped. If you have any ideas about a new grammar point, please tell me.

May 8, 2014


August 9, 2014

God bless this post. I'm taking french, and our homework is on this, but our book does not explain it, and neither did my professor. Thank you!!

September 3, 2014

I just did the flashcards and they had sommes translated as "sums". At least I knew enough to know that was wrong!

November 17, 2014

Well, as a noun, sommes is the plural of somme, which is the French word for sum, so the flashcard is technically correct (unless it said it was a verb).

Unfortunately, flashcards are not a very good tool when dealing with homographs or polysemy...

November 17, 2014

Thanks! I'm on the Basics lesson so I'm pretty sure my correct answer should've been the verb. They also had "est" as east and directions haven't been introduced yet. Good to know the flashcards aren't just randomly wrong though!

November 17, 2014

it's easy easy now for sont and sommes, thanks

January 17, 2015

thank you so much for the post. i was really confused before reading this! it helped a lot

March 18, 2015

Thaank you =)

September 7, 2015

Thank you. This helped very much.

November 2, 2015

So why did a duo lingo lesson use les pommes sont rouge? I'm a bit confused..

November 26, 2015

Because les pommes is a third person plural subject. Could you replace "the apples" by "they" (the apples, they are red)? Then you should use sont. PERCE_NEIGE was only talking about personal pronouns, but any subject that falls in the right agreement (first, second or third person, singular or plural) will use the same conjugation.

January 5, 2016

With "they are" translated to either "elles sont" or "ils sont"- how do you know which one to use if you are referring to a group of men and women? For example if you are referring to a group of people (they) but some are men and some are women. Do you use the masculine or feminine words ('ils' or 'elles') Apologies if it's a silly question. I am a beginner.

July 19, 2016

"Ils" is for a group of men or a mixed group, while "Elles" is a group of women.

July 28, 2016

The above does not explain why " the dresses are red" means " les robes sont rouges"

does it mean except for vous and nous , all other plurals ; sont is used ?

March 24, 2017

Merci beaucoup!!!

April 4, 2018


Thank you for explaining so clearly and writing in laymen terms, for some of us that are not great on grammar. I totally understood that, and gave you a lingot!

Nous sommes! Got it!

Vous êtes manifique

May 9, 2018

Frankly, in my online lesson son't and sommes are used similarly, and not with ils nor elles, so it's baffling each time I am asked to translate. If I chose sommes because I think it's plural, I am wrong, then for a similar sentence if I use sont, I am wrong, so now I just guess.

September 14, 2018

Thanks,really helpful explanation.

October 30, 2018

Didn't someone already answer this question? Ok Gnite

October 30, 2018

i just came across a sentence where sont is translated as IS, how does this work, why...

December 9, 2018
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