Fluent French speakers: I need your help

French is a beautiful and romantic language, and I am enjoying every minute I spend studying and practicing it. As with any new language, however, I’m having some difficulties. I guess I shouldn’t complain, since my native tongue is English, and English is one of the most difficult language to learn. It’s got all kinds of inconsistent rules, the pronunciation of the vowels varies depending on the word, some letters are contextually pronounced as others, etc.

Back to my point. I’m struggling to understand certain rules in French, insofar as when to use different forms of the same word. I’m using a fantastic app called Duolingo which allows anyone to learn a new language, free of charge. It’s very good about explaining when to use what. But sometimes, it leaves me hanging.

Par exemple:

The words eux and les both mean ‘them.’ But are they interchangeable? If not, when do I use which word? I’ve tried scouring Google for answers, but the results are explained confusingly and are unhelpful. I’ve also occasionally seen leur, which means ‘their,’ used to mean ‘them.’ Did I make that up? Or is it really a thing? 

The phrase ce sont eux qui dirigent translates into ‘they are the ones driving.’ (Literally: it is them who drive.) Could I use les in place of eux here? Why or why not? My theory is that les refers to inanimate objects, whereas eux is in regards to people or animals. Is this at all true?

Un autre exemple:

Nous is the formal word for ‘we’/’us.’ I’m familiar with the conjugation for this form. However, on is the informal version. Sometimes, I’m caught off-guard by its usage. It seems to me that the conjugation of on is the same as the conjugation of the forms il/elle. Is this correct? (i.e. nous allons = ‘we go’; on va/il va = ‘we go,’ ‘he goes.’)

These two examples are what stump me the most in French. There are others, and as I come across them again in my studies, I will post addendums to request more help. Any and all feedback is greatly appreciated!

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