FR: on / nous - in formal essay or academic writing

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by Pencil, May 19, 2006.

  1. Pencil Member

    England English

    When writting a formal essay does one use 'third person singular - on ' or the 'nous' form when writing about people in gereral or situations?
    For example:
    Nous habitons dans une sociétié injuste.

    [In english it is accepable to use both depending on the context.]

    :D Merci

    Moderator note: multiple discussions merged to create this one. See also the following related threads
    FR: On / Nous - generalities
    FR: on / nous - in the same paragraph
    FR: on (plural) + participle, adjective, reflexive pronoun agreement
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 4, 2009
  2. pieanne

    pieanne Senior Member

    Nice Hinterland
    In a formal essay, I'd use "nous".
  3. Markus

    Markus Senior Member

    Paris, France
    Canada - English
    What do you mean about both being acceptable in English?
  4. Pencil Member

    England English
    Bonjour Markas,
    When writing formal essays in English several subject tenses can be used depending on the cirumstances.
    For example: In a philosophy essay I may write; One is not able to see the differece between black and white. Or, I could replace one is with we are and the tone (formality) of the essay remains the same.
  5. Markus

    Markus Senior Member

    Paris, France
    Canada - English
    Okay, I understand, thanks. I was trying to figure out what other subject you were talking about besides "we". :)
  6. Overton Senior Member

    Me too. But I'd say "Nous vivons dans une société..."

    Hope that helps
  7. njb17 Senior Member

    england, english
    when writing a dissertation which is better to use

    on= if one takes ... as an example


    nous= if we an example

  8. CARNESECCHI Senior Member

    French / France
    As a general rule, avoid "on" as much as possible. "on" should only be used in general sentences concerning many people, like proverbs, aphorisms or such structures "Comme on fait son lit, on se couche".

    And never ever use "on" for "nous" in a written text, unless you quote someone's words. And, even then, you still have the spelling problem -> Must we write "on est allé" or "on est allés" ? (I know that the usual - and now accepted- answer is the second way but it's definitely grammatically inconsistent writting)
    Hope it helps!
  9. pieanne

    pieanne Senior Member

    Nice Hinterland
    "On" is widely used in French, meaning "we", "they", "one"...
    As Carnesecchi said, it's to be avoided in anything written, formal, etc... unless you're writing to your best friend!

    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 4, 2009
  10. Avignonaddict Senior Member

    English - British
    This is so useful - in English 'one' as a subject is only used in highly formal situations, and is almost considered obsolete. (The passive is more usual - 'it is thought', rather than 'one thinks') Having heard it in French conversation, I had started using 'on' all the time, instead of 'nous' but I'll try to restrict the use right away.

    Thanks for this, and all good stuff on the forum
  11. CiaBella Senior Member

    USA English
    Quick question... when writing an academic/scholarly paper, is it better to use "nous" or "on" in sentences like "We can see that..." (Nous voyons/On voit) or "This authors shows us..."?

  12. carolineR

    carolineR Senior Member

    Indian Ocean
    "nous", definitely :)
  13. riantencore Member

    United States
    American English
    I do agree with Avignonaddict's overall point, but I would like to stress that "it is thought" is neither a very clear (nor, in my experience, a commonly-used) expression, in speech or in writing, even though a passive construction like it in French is more typical.

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