First, second and third person

The terms first, second and third person are confusing to many English speakers, though they use these categories of grammar in their speech and writing, every day. We will examine exactly what is third person, second person and first person, the difference between them, when they are used and some examples of that use in sentences.

First person, second person and third person refer to point of view. Point of view has implications in telling a story, as well as in grammar. The grammatical point of view definition concerns which pronouns are used in a particular instance, which also affects which verb inflection is used. We will examine the grammar involved in first person point of view, second person point of view, and third person point of view, as well as the way to identify 1st person, 2nd person and 3rd person narratives.

First (1st) person point of view is the speaker or writer. The most commonly used first person pronouns are I and we, though me, my, mine, us, our, ours are also first person pronouns. When a person is speaking conversationally, he is speaking in the first person point of view. Some famous novels written in the first person point of view are The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton. Writing in first person brings the reader into the main character’s head, however, the narrative is complicated by the fact that the writer can not introduce any information that is unknown to the main character. First person point of view is rarely depicted in a film, the perspective must be what the character sees with his eyes, making the camera a character. An example of this is the Blair Witch Project. Examples of first person in sentences:

I am never alone when I have a good book in my hands.

My daughter eats lunch around noon.

We often walk around the pond in the middle of the park.

Second (2nd) person point of view is the person who is being spoken to, either verbally or on the page. The most commonly used second person pronoun is you, though your and yours also second person pronouns. When a person writes an email or letter, or writes a how-to book, he usually uses a second person point of view. Writing a novel in second person is very unusual, though the novel Bright Lights, Big City is a successful example. The depiction of second person point of view is even rarer in film, as the characters on screen would have to be directly addressing the audience, making the audience another character in the story. Examples of second person in sentences:

You drive the car on Saturdays.

Your hair could use a trim.

Your first order of business should be a quick review of the study guide.

Third (3rd) person point of view is the person who is being spoken about, third person is not me, not you, but another person. The most commonly used third person pronouns are he, she and it, though his, her, hers, its, they, them, and theirs are also third person pronouns. Third person is the most commonly used point of view in writing fiction, but writing in third person is also the norm for academic papers. Popular novels written in third person point of view are the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling, 1984 by George Orwell, and The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Most films are written in the third person point of view. Examples of the third person in sentences:

He opened his restaurant last year, and has been successful.

She was sad when the circus left town.

His teeth hurt so much that he had to call the dentist.

Remember, first person involves the  pronouns I, we, though me, my, mine, us, our, ours, and is from the speaker’s point of view. Second person involves the pronouns you, your, yours, and is from the listener’s point of view. Third person involves the pronouns he, she, it, his, her, hers, its, they, them, theirs and involves the person’s point of view that is not the speaker or the listener.