On vs Nous

Is there anybody out there that could explain a few or all of these questions regarding these two French pronouns?

  1. When you use "nous" as in "Nous sommes canadiens" would the "on" version be "On est canadien" or "On est canadiens?"

  2. Can "on" be feminine?

  3. When would somebody say "on" as apposed to "nous" in spoken and written French?

  4. As "on" can be used as 'we', how is distinction made in spoken and written French between 'one' and 'we?'

  5. Is there any exceptions and other meanings of "on?"

Thanks to everybody who answers my question and to anybody who read this!

4 years ago


nous means we and you would use that in formal and written French. on is informal and used in everyday spoken French but never in written French, except for maybe in Facebook and Twitter etc. On also means impersonal you for example on peut manger au restaurant meaning you can eat at the restaurant not referring to anyone in particular. You can make the distinction from context normally nous always means we and it is normally fairly obvious when on is used to mean we.

4 years ago
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Actually, it's quite simple. On has two meanings, Nous and an Indefinite pronoun and it's easy to separate every meaning. But when it means nous, it can be used only for speaking and not for writing.

For the Indefinite pronoun case, the use is this way:


-Maman, on frappe à la porte!

-Mom, someone's knocking at the door!


4 years ago
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1/2 You can say On est canadien (since on is supposed to be singular) but it is also correct to say On est canadiens or On est canadiennes if you're in a group of girls only.

3 In spoken French, it's far more common than nous, which sounds too formal. In written French, if you mean we, write nous (except, as said by jacdyn, on Facebook and other social networks on which you generally use informal speech). If you mean one (ex: On doit manger pour vivre = One has to eat to live), use on.

4 The context of the sentence will help you make this difference :)

5 Can't think of any right now...

Hope that helps!

4 years ago
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On can mean we or 'One'. For example - On doit faire les devoirs = One must do homework; On est allé chez le dentist = we went to the dentist

On is very frequently used in spoken French, and I must say that I use it more frequently than nous because the verb conjugations are easier to say

4 years ago

This might help. I took French for school, and what they said was this Nous is French for "us" On is used like "one eats breakfast in the morning" or "people need umbrellas when it rains", when you aren't talking about a specified person, just people. Ex. "on a besoin les parapuies quand il pleut."

On doesn't have a specific least as far as I know, but I'm not an expert. You would use masculine adjectives or whatever with it because that's typically the default. The verb conjugation used with on would be the same used for il/elle

1 year ago
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