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Can you please tell me the role of "on" in this sentence? Who is this "on"? We, they, I, etc.

On n'en finirait pas de raconter ses aventures.

I don't have any more context, it's a sentence taken from a dictionary.

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    Without more context, please consult a dictionary.
    – livresque
    Oct 1, 2022 at 16:40

3 Answers 3

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On is a generic pronoun here, it doesn't represent anyone in particular. You can use the passive voice to avoid translating it:

Ses aventures n'en finiraient pas d'être racontées.
His/her adventures would never cease to be told.

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    Or you could translate it as we, they, or people — "we/they/people would never stop telling the story of his adventures." Oct 1, 2022 at 17:20
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    @PeterShor Yes, especially people which is necessarily generic unlike we and they that are still a bit ambiguous.
    – jlliagre
    Oct 1, 2022 at 19:22
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    But even though it seems less likely, couldn't the French actually mean a specific we or a specific they, depending on context? Oct 1, 2022 at 19:24
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    @PeterShor It could be indeed a specific we, definitely as on has replaced nous in spoken French but a they is still very likely to be a generic one.
    – jlliagre
    Oct 1, 2022 at 20:54
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The word "on" includes I and other people, therefore, in English, it would be "we".

Like with "we", there are two main meanings:

  • A small group of people

Mes amis et moi sommes allés au bois. On y a fait la fête.

  • A people, such as the French population at large

On est dans de beaux draps. La guerre a commencée.

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My two cents without any context.

On n'en finirait pas de raconter ses aventures.

We would never stop telling his/her/its/their adventures.

or

They would never stop telling his/her/its/their adventures.

or

People would never stop telling his/her/its/their adventures.

Personally, I prefer (a little dated/very formal though)

One would never stop telling his/her/its/their adventures.

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  • Are you sure the first sentence (Ses aventures...) is the one you wanted to quote?
    – jlliagre
    Oct 1, 2022 at 21:29
  • @jlliagre Ooops:-)! You are right! Fixed already. Thanks a lot. I appreciate it!
    – Dimitris
    Oct 1, 2022 at 21:34
  • Tu as de la chance que je ne t'ai pas poursuivi pour plagiat, ça aurait terni ta carrière ;-)
    – jlliagre
    Oct 1, 2022 at 21:41

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