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On vs nous

Both of them mean "we", but why "on" is known as a third person?What's the difference between them?

In some poems "on" is mentioned as people in general like :

Quand on a tout, on est trop plein. -Joseph Joubert

When you have everything, you are too full (satisfied).

On a souvent besoin d'un coup de main --rarement d'un coup de pied. -Louis-Auguste Commerson

People often need a hand, rarely a kick.

September 20, 2017



I see it working with generalities. Also it translates where English would use One ex. One never knows.


"Nous" is more formal, but on is informal. Also, on can mean "one".


Yeah you're right, but "on" is not always informal! It only becomes informal when it is indirectly mentioned as "we" in the sentence, but when it is mentioned as people in general it is formal. Thanks anyway :) I'd like to know another difference.


That's pretty much it. "On" can be used for something vague like "you/one" or in place of the passive voice, when you want to say that something happened but not focus on who did it. "On sonne" = the doorbell rang - there is someone at the door - someone rang the bell but we don't know who.


You want to mention "on" is not informal?


Today I encountered this approximate sentence: We have to be elegant to go to this restaurant.

I submitted: On doit être élégant... But Duolingo insisted on: On doit être élégants...

The hints didn't offer élégant, which I thought was strange. When I looked at the discussion (on my phone), one person said that "élégants" was correct because the English sentence used We (plural pronoun). Is that true?

I reason that On is 3rd person singular so the agreeing adjective must also be singular. I would like a ruling on this, please.

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