What is the difference between "on" and "nous"?

May 5, 2012


Gersois is right - "nous" is almost never used in spoken French these days, at least from my recent experience during a year in Paris.

July 27, 2012

"nous" equals "we" in English. It is the 1st person plural, and it works exactly the same as in English.

"on" is a bit more tricky. Basically it should be used to designate a person or a group or person, which we are not sure who it might be, how many they are, and if they are male or female. An undefined group of people if you prefer. It could be a group of one person.

BUT, while talking, French people use it instead of the "nous", when it's obvious which persons we are talking about.

Ex: Eric, Jean and Paul are alone in their flat :

Eric: "Vous avez mangé ?"

Jean:"Oui, on a mangé."

Here, Jean doesn't need to specify which person the "on" designates, it's obvious that it's concerning Jean and Paul, and only them.

I hope it's clear enough.

May 5, 2012

To approximate "on" in English — it's close to "one." As in: "If one is hungry, one eats at the restaurant." <<Si on a faim, on mange au restaurant.>>

December 20, 2013

In American English, the word "you" is often used in place of "one." In the States, you seldom hear someone saying "In the States one seldom hears someone saying..." (If you caught that - and I'm sure you did.) So, that part of "on" I get - I'm still a little confused about the "we." I'll get it though. You have keep has to keep studying.... LOL

January 29, 2017

So we can use both? Like when we are translating "We can speak French"?

April 18, 2015

So basically in English: one has eaten

November 13, 2016

"Nous" means we in English. "On" also means we (it can also mean they).

"On" is conversational and "nous" is formal. "On" is more common, so it is important to know.

It is important to know the difference between "on" and "nous" because when you conjugate a verb, "on" and "nous" are conjugated differently. Verbs used with "on" are conjugated like verbs used with "il," "elle," and singular names. For instance, let's use the verb "manger" (to eat). je mange tu manges il/elle/on mange nous mangeons vous mangez ils/elles mangent As you can see, "manger" is conjugated differently with "on" than it is with "nous."

I hope this helps!!

January 18, 2014

Merci beaucoup!

April 8, 2017

On can mean they, too. On a dit quelque chose dans la télé. They said something in TV.

May 31, 2012

While important to learn the proper syntax of a language, it's nuggets like this that really make you conversational

July 17, 2013

AH! It's a common joke when someone says "They say that falling in love is wonderful" for someone else to ask "WHO says that?" Or "WHO are 'they'?" "They" are "on." I'm gettin' it!

January 29, 2017

I almost never hear "nous" in conversation in France. It's almost always "on"

June 23, 2012

It`s true. A frenchman I know told me that "nous" is basically obsolete today.

April 8, 2013

Maybe in the oral language but not in the written language. And then its a difference if you speak to young people or elderly people. Just looked up at:

There are many "nous"

December 16, 2013

What about québécois? Is nous used or on used more frequently in Canada?

December 18, 2017

Nous means either we or us as in "we like to play" or "she talked to us" and on means one as in "one never knows what to think"

October 30, 2012

"nous" is "we" when translated to english and is Nous Sommes in etre. "On" is informal and acts as "anyone","one" and acts the same as il and elle when conjugating verbs

October 26, 2012

Is "nous" only out of practice in informal conversation, or is it still in use with formal speaking and writing?

October 11, 2013

"Nous" is used mostly for formal speaking like speechs or things like that, or any written text. In oral French, at least in France, it's been replaced by "on".

October 11, 2013

"On" in a formal setting (stories and journalism) is sometimes translated in the passive voice. On a vu la mer. >> The sea was seen.

May 1, 2018

Nous is strictly "we," indicating a specific group of people about whom you have probably already been speaking. The context of the conversation should indicate who nous is.

On can be used in generalizing statements, meaning "one," as in "One should not drive and talk on the phone" (On ne devrait pas conduire en parlant au téléphone). On is perfect for sweeping generalizations, but also as a casual substitute for nous. ""Timothy Sargent-Quora""

April 22, 2019
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