Using "on" as "we"
I am well aware that, in conversation at least, it is becoming increasingly rare to use "nous", many speakers prefer the "on" construction. I have been told that, when that happens, the rest of the sentence agrees with the implied "nous": "On est allés au cinéma, on prend notre voiture."
One website stated flatly: "Keep “on = nous” in your head all the time. Ignore everything else, as the rest of the phrase stays exactly the same." added This website is run by a young French woman, not some anglo academic, ha.
That seems quite clear. However, I find I hesitate in the case of reflexive verbs. I would appreciate if someone can confirm. Is it:
On se dépêche. On doit se laver.
On nous dépêche. On doit nous laver.
Oh, thank you. I am far from fluent, but I did feel, somehow, despite the quoted website's certainty, that it sounded wrong with "nous".
And I hope I don't sound as if I am arguing with you, but I am still a little confused. If, in context, "on prend notre voiture" is understood to mean "we are taking our car" and not "someone is taking our car", how is it that the same doesn't apply to the "on" in "on doit nous laver"?
Is it just One Of Those Things? Or am I missing some obvious distinction between the two?
I totally get that, and that the "on" version is informal, although, I gather, extremely widespread. More than one person, in their blog or video, says that they "never" use "nous" at all in spoken French.
My concern is specifically about the use of "on" in this way when using a reflexive verb.
I heard about the use of "on" for "we" some time ago. I only later learned that, when doing so, related words in the sentence change to reflect the plural meaning. The conjugated verb stays singular, but adjectives, participles, and personal pronouns shift - e.g.: "On est contents. On est allés au cinéma, et on prend notre voiture."
And the question is, what happens with a reflexive verb? Presumably, the conjugated verb stays singular, but what about the second pronoun (on se [verb]/on nous [verb])? What about when the reflexive verb is not the conjugated verb (On peut/on doit se[verb]/nous [verb])?
With a reflexive verb you need to keep "se" and not "nous", just like the conjugated verb stays singular, the "se" remains "se":
- On se lave, on se parle, on se voit
- On peut se laver, on peut se parler, on peut se voir
- On doit se laver, on doit se parler, on doit se voir
We say "on prend notre voiture" and not "on prend sa voiture" because "notre voiture" is not part of the verb anymore, if we say "on prend sa voiture" it means we take his/her car
Not so easy to explain, I hope it makes more sense :)