Grammar First Person vs. Second Person vs. Third Person: Which One Do You Want? |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

First Person vs. Second Person vs. Third Person: Which One Do You Want?

Part of being a precise and eloquent communicator is conveying the right point of view. Person is used in grammar to distinguish who is speaking, who is being addressed, and who is not speaking or being addressed. Grammatical person includes first person, second person, and third person.

In this post we will help you understand the use of person supported by some examples.

What First Person, Second Person, and Third Person Mean

Each person in grammar represents a different perspective in a narrative.

  • The first person is the speaker or a group that includes the speaker. It is expressed by the words “I” and “me” in the singular and “we” and “us” in the plural.
  • Second person is used for those who are being spoken to. It is expressed by the word “you” in both the singular and the plural.
  • The third person includes anyone or anything else other than I, me, us, or you. It is represented by the words “he,” “she,” and “it” in the singular and “they” and “them” in the plural.

The First-Person Point of View

When you write or speak in the first person, you are telling your own thoughts or ideas or those of a group you belong to. The following are examples of self-directed statements:

I arrived at the party before the other guests did.

There was a ticket waiting for me at the counter.

This has always been a favorite movie for us.

The Second-Person Point of View

The second person addresses the audience whether it is one person or many people:

You are my best friend.

You can feel good about the way you played today.

You all deserve credit for the company’s performance this quarter.

The Third-Person Point of View

We will use the third person to refer to someone or something that is either not us or not an audience we’re addressing:

After leaving late from the meeting, she had to run to catch the bus.

They should be careful when walking around that puddle.

It wouldn’t start because the battery was dead.

Knowing Which Point of View to Use

Now that you understand the different perspectives in English, how do you know which one to use for different things you are writing?

In many cases the answer will be obvious, as shown in the preceding examples. If you are telling your own story, you will speak or write in the first person. If you are communicating with another person or group directly, you will use the second person. If you are saying something about someone or something else, you will refer to the third person.

Sometimes you might choose the voice in which thoughts are expressed to achieve a desired effect (e.g., in fiction). The following general guidelines might be helpful in making those choices:

  • First-person points of view tend to be more descriptive and individual.
  • The second person is usually recognized as more intimate, immediate, and persuasive.
  • Third-person perspectives create more distance and often feel more rational.

By experimenting with different voices in your writing, you’ll learn to use each effectively as it suits your intentions. An essay may be most powerful in the first person, for example, while a science-fiction short story might explore new possibilities in the third person.

Pop Quiz

Identify the person being used (first, second, or third) in each sentence.

1. She is always late for class on Tuesdays.

2. I can’t remember when I started speaking with a French accent.

3. You should try yoga to alleviate the back pain.

4. He could not be convinced of the mistake.

5. I must have left the math book at home this morning.

 

Pop Quiz Answers

1. She is always late for class on Tuesdays. (third person)

2. I can’t remember when I started speaking with a French accent. (first person)

3. You should try yoga to alleviate the back pain. (second person)

4. He could not be convinced of the mistake. (third person)

5. I must have left the math book at home this morning. (first person)

Looking for More Grammar Lessons?

We’re always adding new posts to our website with the aim of offering you more topics of interest. If you have a question about this post or an idea about a future topic, leave us a comment below!

If the article or the existing discussions do not address a thought or question you have on the subject, please use the "Comment" box at the bottom of this page.

Leave a Comment or Question:

Please ensure that your question or comment relates to the topic of the blog post. Unrelated comments may be deleted. If necessary, use the "Search" box on the right side of the page to find a post closely related to your question or comment.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *