So "ona" means "she" or "they"? Does "ona" as "they" include only females in a group?
"Ona" in the plural sense includes only neuters in the group. If there was even a single feminine or inanimate masculine entity in it along with the neuters, it becomes "ony", and with a single animate masculine, "oni".
While we are on the subject, are the final vowels in ony and oni pronounced the same? Is the n in oni softened (palatalized)?
They are pronounced differently, indeed.
Oni sounds what Czechs call "soft' sound kind of as if the N had an accent over it, but it does not need it as it is followed by I. And that makes the sound Ň. https://forvo.com/search/oni/cs/
Ony has a 'hard" sound. https://forvo.com/search/ony/sk/ (yes, this is a sample of slovak, but the czech one on forvo sounded weird and in this case czech and slovak are the same).
I wondered whether that might be the difference. I was also wondering whether the i and y might be different the way they are in Polish and Ukrainian (i and и) but it sounds like the vowels really are the same, which is what I seemed to recall from a summer of Czech two decades ago.
And if there are a feminine/inanimate masculine entity AND an animate masculine amongst the neuters? Should we use "ony" or "oni"?
Ona means she in singular and they of neutral gender in plural (like "cities" = ona města).
If this sentence meant "she is not short", it would be Ona není krátká. The verb makes all the difference in Czech.
I fear I need a logopedist or a "severe and obsessed Czech husband" to hear Forvo's difference in hard and soft pronounciation :-[ It's a question of entering in this new (fascinating) culture, I believe.
interesting. As a native speaker the difference is like night and day. That said I really struggle in telling singular and plural in French listening exercises and i am sure French native speakers wonder what is such a big deal. .
My daughter and I were just talking about that the other day. Written French makes a great many distinctions that are simply not pronounced in the spoken language, so while you should be very careful in distinguishing "elle mange" from "elles mangent" in writing, in the dialects of French with which I am familiar, there is no difference in pronunciation. My daughter asked me how spoken French could deal with such ambiguity, but I pointed out that Japanese verbs don't vary by person and they don't use subject pronouns most of the time.
So, to be clear. THE PLURAL 3RD PERSON; Ony: feminine, Oni: masculine, Ona: neuter Right? Right now I'm guessing the gender of the pronoun by the adjective ending.
There are two masculine genders.
masculine animate: oni
masculine inanimate: ony
But please read the above for more details, it gets more complicated in mixed groups.