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

Pencil

Member
England English
Bonjour:)

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:
  • 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.
     

    njb17

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

    on= if one takes ... as an example

    or

    nous= if we take...as an example


    merci
     

    CARNESECCHI

    Senior Member
    French / France
    Hello,
    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!
     

    pieanne

    Senior Member
    Belgium/French
    "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:

    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
     

    CiaBella

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Hi!
    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..."?

    Thanks!
     

    riantencore

    Member
    American English
    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

    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.
     
    Top