On appelle la fille
"On appelle la fille" is translated as "We call the girl." Can anyone explain "on" here? What is the difference between "on appelle" and "nous appelons," if the first one is "we call" too?
"On," which translates literally to "one," as in "One does X" or "One does Y" in French is a really nuanced concept. It is a kind of spoken phenomenon that is not really ever taught in French, and hopefully this will change soon, because it is important to understand the weight that using "on" has in modern spoken French. There are a few unspoken rules about "on" when you are speaking French.
1.) It is MUCH more likely that "on" will be used in regular everyday conversation in place of "nous." I think this is for several reasons - one being that in fast everyday conversation, conjugating and using "on" is much easier and faster, and so overtime it is replacing "nous." For example, "on boit" (2 syllables) vs. "nous buvons" (3 syllables). So, in this way, it makes perfect sense that "On appelle" is going to replace "Nous appelons" (think about what a mouthful that last phrase is at 4 syllables!). So, this brings us to rule number:
2.) "Nous" is used very rarely, and in certain situations:
2a.) If you are in a group of people and you wish to refer specifically to yourself and a few select others within the group. FOR EXAMPLE: If there are 5 people in the group, and you are talking about ALL of you going to the Louvre, you would use "on." HOWEVER, if only you and 1 or 2 others within that group of 5 are going to the Louvre, then you would be more likely specify you and those others when talking to the whole group by saying "nous" in reference to you and those 1 or 2 others.
2b.) If you wish to place emphasis on the fact that "we" are doing something, then it is not simply a matter of just saying "on va au marché," but "NOUS ALLONS au marché."
"On va au marché."
"Qui va au marché?"
"Toi et moi. Nous allons au marché."
2c.) If you are describing a specific situation or a story about yourself and others in which you (or, "we") specifically did X or Y.
3.) "On" is a really easy way to ask general questions about the world or people in general. EXAMPLES: "Do people do this?" = "Est-ce qu'on fait ça?" (or just "On fait ça?") OR, "What are we doing?" = "Qu'est-ce qu'on fait?" This last question may even be asked generally of a group of people that you have just come upon as a way to ask "What are YOU (and now me, because I just joined the group) doing?"
4.) You can make suggestions using "on." A really simple way to ask "Shall we go?" = "On y va?" = (literally - "Does one go there?")
Obviously when we are reading academic texts and translations, we are not going to run into "on" very often. However, I would get used to using it in normal conversation. You will sound much more French that way. "ON" IS CONJUGATED JUST LIKE "ELLE" OR "IL".
Hope this helps. Mason
i don't understand point 2b:
2b.) If you wish to place emphasis on the fact that "we" are doing something, then it is not simply a matter of just saying "on va au marché," but "NOUS ALLONS au marché." EXAMPLE CONVERSATION: "On va au marché." "Qui va au marché?" "Toi et moi. Nous allons au marché."
can you please explain further if possible :)
Yes, I agree. After reading point 2b it is a little unclear what I have written. You could also say this:
Alternative answer for 2b:
If you read my example of in 2a of 5 people (including you) standing around discussing who is going to the Louvre, and only 2 of them (you and your friend Pierre) are going to the Louvre, someone NOT going to the Louvre might ask "Qui va au Louvre?"
You cannot answer them "On va au Louvre." in this case because not everyone involved in the conversation is going (only you and your friend Pierre are). You are still going to answer "we are going to the Louvre," (while pointing to yourself and Pierre) but in this case you have to specify that it is you 2 amongst the 5 people in this conversation and not everyone else, so you might say something like:
"Nous allons au Louvre." (pointing to yourself and Pierre), or "Pierre et moi. Nous allons au Louvre."
I hope this helps clarify point 2b.
Glad to see so many people interested in French. It is a beautiful language.
Yes to both of your suggestions here. Admittedly, this sentence is a little awkward and you would probably not find yourself saying it very often or only in very specific situations. Here are a few scenarios using "on" as the pronoun in each case.
Question: "What should we do?" - "Qu'est-ce qu'on fait?"
Answer: "Let's call the girl/daughter." - "On appelle la fille."
Question: "Shall we call the girl/daughter?" - "On appelle la fille?"
Answer: "Yes. We (can/will) call her." - "Oui. On l'appelle."
Hope this helps.
Yes, "tu" is always only used with a singular person and yes it is informal or familiar, so I would use it with a family member, a friend, a child, or in prayer to God the father or son. It is used like our old form "thou", except that it is still used now. "Vous" is not just used for plural, but also for formal singular.
The above is an excellent treatment of the topic. two minor points : 1 - on is not used as an indirect pronoun, so sometimes that forces "nous" 2 - its owrth pointing out that there is an opposite regiater effect that seems to happen as well : "on" seems to be lower register. but in english terms one "one does " are very high register.
Also, you know how in English, people tend to say "we", when they want to refer to a general population? It occurs often, whether you notice or not. So, "On" in French can mean "we" in this way as well. It refers to the general and the implicit, but it can be a very informal "Nous", also. Happy Learning and God Bless!
petite fille = little girl
jeune fille = young girl
une fille = a girl
ma fille = my daughter
The best clue that it means daughter is a possessive adjective used with this noun. In conversation, if we had already established that we are talking about my or our daughter, we can refer to her afterwards as "la fille" which often means "the girl", but since it is the girl that we have been talking about, in context it could refer back to my daughter or our daughter that we had been talking about.
This is a good illustration of how to understand French, and the development of language. Take yourself out of the context for a minute. Is the sentence about "nous" (or "on") i.e. us? I think in this case the object takes priority over the subject. "La fille" is more descriptive than "on", and must therefore evoke more. As English is considered more important or prevalent in the world, lets give the French the benefit of the doubt, as we don't use "thou" or "one" unless absolutely necessary, dogmatic language.