On = we, one, people

On : we

Look at these examples:

On est très proches, ma soeur et moi.
We are very close, my sister and I.


On va au cinéma ce soir
We're going to the cinema tonight.


On y va!
Let's go!

This use of "on" is for a specific group of people of which you're part: e.g. 'My friends and I'.

Here "on" is equivalent in meaning to "nous" (we), though they aren't followed by the same conjugation of the verb:

On est gentils.
We're nice.


Nous sommes gentils.
We're nice.

See also Nous vs on (subject pronouns)

On : one/you/people

You can also use 'on' in a more general sense like this:

Si on travaille dur, on gagne plus
If you work hard you earn more

Here "on" includes Men/people in general, or can be a theoretical statement such as"one <does that>".

This form is often used when expressing rules such as:

On ne doit pas parler la bouche pleine.
People mustn't speak with their mouths full.

 

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

On ne doit pas parler la bouche pleine.
People mustn't speak with their mouths full.



Nous sommes gentils.
We're nice.


On est gentils.
We're nice.


on = one/you/people/we


Si on travaille dur, on gagne plus
If you work hard you earn more


on = we


On est très proches, ma soeur et moi.
We are very close, my sister and I.


On va au cinéma ce soir
We're going to the cinema tonight.


on = we/us


On y va!
Let's go!


Q&A

Shari

Kwiziq community member

31 October 2018

3 replies

Why can «On ne peut pas stationner ici» mean ‘You cannot park here’ but not ‘We cannot park here’? The verb tense doesn’t match either.

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

1 November 2018

1/11/18

Hi Shari,

'On ne peut pas stationner ici'    is     'You cannot park here'...

The you here applies to everyone, in other words,  it is forbidden to park here.

It is a bit like: 

On ne sait jamais ce que nous réserve l'avenir = You never know what the future holds

Which is a saying for a truth that applies to everyone.

Not sure what you mean about the verb tense not matching...

Shari

Kwiziq community member

1 November 2018

1/11/18

Thanks, Cécile.  I selected all three in my quiz answer - One, You and We - but the answer was just One and You.  I was trying to figure out how I could decipher why We was not included and thought the form of the conjugation (sorry, not tense) ‘peut’ might be an indication.  But ‘peut’ matches the third person spelling so that left me with the question of why You and not We.

Alan

Kwiziq community member

1 November 2018

1/11/18

Hi Shari,

All 3 are correct - I just tried the question myself and it accepted all 3.

With these multiple selection questions, I sometimes find that one of the answers I was sure I had selected is missing. Then it can be confusing when you compare the correct answer with what you supposedly entered. Maybe that's happened to you.

I have a feeling there may be a bug somewhere - perhaps if you click on the answers too quickly.

Claudia

Kwiziq community member

27 October 2018

0 replies

Bon soir. On the video in this lesson I would like to see if I understood well.

On fait que ce l'on peut.        Mange-t-on du riz. The "l" is used to avoid two vowels crashing into eachother and the "t" ??? I've seen the "t" more often than the "l". They are only for a more harmonious flow of the spoken language, but how do you know which to use when?

Ayushi

Kwiziq community member

7 October 2018

2 replies

No quiz is showing for this lesson

Gruff

Kwiziq language super star

7 October 2018

7/10/18

Hi Ayushi - I can see a kwiz so if this is still an issue for you, please take a screenshot and send it in to support. Many thanks!

Ayushi

Kwiziq community member

7 October 2018

7/10/18

Okay!

renwa

Kwiziq community member

31 August 2018

2 replies

why "nous" and "on" aren't followed by the same conjugation of the verb

so is it wrong to say on sommes gentille ? and why ?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

31 August 2018

31/08/18

Yes, it would be wrong. "On" always and without exception takes the verb in 3rd person singular.

renwa

Kwiziq community member

31 August 2018

31/08/18

merci beaucoup :)

Sophia

Kwiziq community member

14 August 2018

1 reply

So i just took the little quiz in the end and I got one wrong because I checked an option that included 'we'.

How do you know whether it is plural or singular besides looking at the verb ending or the article? Thank you so much!

Chris

Kwiziq community member

15 August 2018

15/08/18

Sometimes you know because the participle or an adjective gives it away. Simetimes you only know from context. 

-- Chris. 

Maloyendra

Kwiziq community member

4 May 2018

1 reply

Can't find any micro kwiz here - shows a blank space after "1 of 0"

Gruff

Kwiziq language super star

7 May 2018

7/05/18

Hi - I just checked and this seems fine. Is this still happening for you?

H

Kwiziq community member

3 April 2018

2 replies

"On est gentilS"?

You give the example "On est gentils" - should that be "On est gentil" (i.e. the adjective is singular after 'on' even if I'm using "on" to talk about a group of people)? Or am I mistaken? Thank you.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

3 April 2018

3/04/18

"On" can be used as an informal "we" or a more impersonal, general subject like the English "one". Depending on which one it is, one uses either the plural (when used as "we") or the singular (when used as "one").

On est allés au cinéma hier soir. -- We went to the movies yesterday evening.
Olivier et moi, on est mariés. -- Oliver and I, we are married.
Quand on est poli, on accueille les invités. -- If one is polite, one welcomes the guests.

The first two sentences are examples of "on" meaning "we"; the last one features "on" as "one".

-- Chris (not a native speaker).

H

Kwiziq community member

3 April 2018

3/04/18

Thank you, that's very helpful.

Judy

Kwiziq community member

17 March 2018

3 replies

Are we going out?

Judy

Kwiziq community member

17 March 2018

17/03/18

It was a wrong answer when I used "allons-nous sort?" for this kwiz question. Why is it wrong?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

17 March 2018

17/03/18

Hi Judy, 

the lesson is about "on", hence I suspect the answer is looking for a construction using it. 

On sort -- Are we going out. 

Nous sortons? -- Are we going out (using nous in place of on). 

Va-t-on sortir? -- Are we going to go out?

Allons-nous sortir? Are we going to go out (using nous). 

"Allons-nous sort" is incorrect because need the infinitive (sortir) after the conjugated verb. "Sortir" means "to go out" it can't be used as an adjective for "out". 

-- Chris (not a native speaker). 

Judy

Kwiziq community member

19 March 2018

19/03/18

Thank you Chris.  I did finally realize that the verb was not the proper tense in my answer--but not until after I had posted the question!

Lewis

Kwiziq community member

31 October 2017

1 reply

Aller present tense form with 'on' vs 'nous'.

I understand 'va' to be the il/elle present tense form of aller, so why is "On va..." correct and "On allons..." incorrect?

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

31 October 2017

31/10/17

Bonjour Lewis !

"Va" is indeed the form for "il/elle" but also for "on".
Think of "on" as an equivalent to the general "one" (both are singular words, but refer to more than one person):
On va à la plage.
We go to the beach.
One goes to the beach.

See also : 
https://kwiziq.learnfrenchwithalexa.com/revision/grammar/subject-pronouns-nous-versus-on

 

I hope that's helpful!
À bientôt !

Truc Thanh

Kwiziq community member

22 October 2017

3 replies

About the explanation of "on"

Hi guys! I find the page of Kwiziq very interesting. You explain " people shouldn't speak with their mouths full" : " on ne doit pas parler la bouche pleine" . Why is there not "avec" between " parler" et "la"? It doesn't seem like correct french grammar? Are there any misspelling here?Thanks a lot.

Ron

Kwiziq community member

22 October 2017

22/10/17

Bonjour Truc, Here is another locution that uses «avec» : Les gens ne devraient pas parler avec leur bouche pleine In fact, here is another translation to the phrase in your question: «On ne doit pas parler la bouche pleine» --> You do not have to talk with your mouth full . As can be seen from the different locutions, they say similar things in a different way, i.e. don't talk with your mouth full. After I reread the lesson, I better understand the syntax: «You can also use 'on' in a more general sense like this: Si on travaille dur, on gagne plus If you work hard you earn more Here "on" includes Men/people in general, or can be a theoretical statement such as"one ". This form is often used WHEN EXPRESSING RULES such as: On ne doit pas parler la bouche pleine. People shouldn't speak with their mouths full.» What I get from this as a takeaway is this: «On» is being used in a general sense in a politeness rule; sometimes in stating a rule, the very valid French grammar is not always adhered to and the lesson is on the use of «on» not about the use of «la bouche pleine» nor about «avec la bouche pleine». If we write this in l'imperatif this is the phrase: «Ne parle pas la bouche pleine» or «Ne parlez pas avec la bouche pleine». J'espère que ma réponse vous aiderait. Bonne chance et bonne continuation dans vos études en français, la langue de Molière et qui a été utilisé par le monde français depuis l’époque d’Hugues Capet Ron (un locuteur non natif )

Chris

Kwiziq community member

23 October 2017

23/10/17

The French grammar actually is correct. You don't need the word "avec" as in the corresponding English version "with your mouth full". -- Chris (not a native speaker).

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

27 September 2018

27/09/18

Parler la bouche pleine means to speak with your mouth full.

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