First, Second, and Third Person: Definition and Examples

Point of view definition: First, second, and third person are categories of grammar to classify pronouns and verb forms.

  • First person definition: first person indicates the speaker.
  • Second person definition: second person indicates the addressee.
  • Third person definition: third person indicates a third party individual other than the speaker.

What is the difference Between First Person, Second Person, and Third Person?

First, second, and third person refer to pronouns and their verb forms.

What is First Person?

3rd person point of view definitionFirst person point of view: First person refers to the speaker. It uses the subject pronoun “I” (unless plural).

First Person Example:      

  • I prefer coffee to hot cocoa.

In this example, “I” am the speaker. This is first person.

What is Second Person?

Second person point of view: Second person refers to the addressee. It uses the subject pronoun “you.”

Second Person Example:  

  • You prefer coffee to hot cocoa.

In this example “you” is the addressee. The speaker is addressing “you.” This is second person.

What is Third Person?

1st person point of view definitionThird person point of view: Third person refers to a third party individual. It uses the subject pronouns “he,” “she,” “it,” “they.”

Third Person Example:

  • He prefers coffee to hot cocoa.

In this example “he” is the third party. The speaker is referring to him as the addressee. He prefers coffee to hot cocoa.

When using the different points of view, verbs need to be conjugated appropriately to fit the pronoun use.

Note: Pronouns are only used in English when an antecedent has been clearly identified.

What Are First Person Pronouns?

First person pronouns always refer to the speaker himself. These pronouns are only used when the speaker is making a statement about himself or herself.

First Person Pronoun List:

Here is a list with examples of the first person words we use in writing and speech.

  • I/we (subject, singular/plural)
    • I prefer coffee to hot cocoa. (First person singular)
    • We prefer burgers to pasta. (First person plural)
  • me/us (object, singular/plural)
    • Jacob embarrassed me.
    • Jacob embarrassed us.
  • mine/ours (possessive, singular/plural)
    • The hat is mine.
    • The hat is ours.
  • my/our (possessive, modifying a noun, singular/plural)
    • That is my hat.
    • That is our hat.

What Are Second Person Pronouns?

2nd person point of view definitionSecond person pronouns always refer to the addressees of the speaker himself.

When you are writing, a good way to think about the second person’s point of view is that it addresses the reader (as I just did in that sentence).

Second person pronouns are only used when the speaker is making a statement to the addressee, i.e., to someone.

Second Person Pronoun List:

Here is a list with examples of the second person words we use in writing and speech.

  • you (subject, singular/plural)
    • You prefer coffee to hot cocoa.
  • you (object, singular/plural)
    • Jacob embarrassed you.
  • yours (possessive, singular/plural)
    • The hat is yours.
  • your (possessive, modifying a noun, singular/plural)
    • That is your hat.

Note: In each of these examples, “you” can be an individual (singular) or multiple people (plural).

What Are Third Person Pronouns?

Third person pronouns always refer to a third party. These pronouns are used when the speaker is making a statement about a third party.

Third Person Pronoun List:

Here is a list with examples of the third person words we use in writing and speech.

  • he, she, it / they (subject, singular/plural)
    • He prefers coffee to hot cocoa. (Third person singular)
    • They prefer tea to coffee. (Third person plural)
  • him, her, it / them (object, singular/plural)
    • Jacob embarrassed her.
  • his, hers, its / theirs (possessive, singular/plural)
    • The hat is theirs.
  • his, her, its / their (possessive, modifying a noun, singular/plural)
    • That is their hat.

First, Second, and Third Person in Writing

what is third person point of viewIn writing, the writer may choose to write from different points of view. The point of view he or she chooses is evident through his or her use of pronouns.

Writing in first person: Literature in the first person point of view is written from the speaker’s perspective. This point of view uses first person pronouns to identify the speaker/narrator. First person point of view is generally limited in that the audience only experiences what the speaker/narrator himself experiences.

Writing in third person: Literature in third person point of view is written from an “outside” perspective. This point of view uses third person pronouns to identify characters. In third person writing, the narrator is not a character in the text. Because of this, he can usually “see” what happens to all of the characters.

Writing in second person: In non-fiction writing, a speaker will often switch between pronouns. Writers do this only for effect. For example, if a speaker wants to be clear and “get through” to the audience, he might say “you” (second person) throughout the text even if the text is mostly in third person. Again, this is strictly for rhetorical effect. Experienced writers use this as a literary tool.

Common Questions and First, Second, and Third Person

Here, I want to go quickly through a few questions I get about first, second, and third person pronouns.

Questions About the First Person

Is our first person? Yes, our is one of the first person pronouns.

  • Are you coming to our wedding?

Is you first person? No, you is a second person pronoun.

  • You are a great friend.

Is we first person? Yes, we is a first person pronoun.

  • We are great friends.
  • We polled this group of political observers and activists each week prior to the Iowa caucuses to produce the USA TODAY GOP Power Rankings and went back to them this week to ask who is the best choice for Trump’s running mate. –USA Today

Is my first person? Yes, my is a first person pronoun.

  • My glasses are broken.

Is they first person? No, they is a third person pronoun.

  • They can’t find parking.
  • For frugal travelers, there are some smart alternatives if they are willing to do a bit of homework. –The New York Times

Is us first person? Yes, us is one of the first person pronouns.

  • The president congratulated us.

Questions About the Second Person

first person narrativeIs you second person? Yes, you is a second person pronoun.

  • You are causing a scene.

Is they second person? No, they is a one of the third person pronouns.

  • They are our neighbors.

Is we second person? No, we is one of the first person pronouns.

  • We are going to get groceries.

Questions About the Third Person

Is their third person? Yes, their is a third person pronoun.

  • Their hat is over there.

Is we third person? No, we is a first person pronoun.

  • We are going to the beach.

Is our third person? No, our is a first person pronoun.

  • This is our cake.

Is you third person? No, you is a second person pronoun.

  • You are a nice person.

Is they third person? Yes, they is a third person pronoun.

  • They are nice people.

Is he third person? Yes, he is one of the third person pronouns.

  • He is a great man.
  • Last week, he restated that he believes he deserves a maximum contract. –The Washington Post

Trick to Remember the Difference

what is 3rd person POVSome people have trouble remembering first person vs. second person vs. third person.

Here are a few helpful memory tricks that always help me.

In the first person writing, I am talking about myself.

  • I enjoy singing.

In the second person writing, I am talking to someone.

  • You enjoy singing.

In the third person writing, I am talking about someone.

  • He enjoys singing.

Summary: What is the First, Second, and Third Person Perspective?

Define first person: The definition of first person is the grammatical category of forms that designate a speaker referring to himself or herself. First person pronouns are I, we, me, us, etc.

Define second person: The definition of second person is the grammatical category of forms that designates the person being addressed. Second person pronouns are you, your, and yours.

Define third person: The definition of third person is the grammatical category of forms designating someone other than the speaker. The pronouns used are he, she, it, they, them, etc.

If this article helped you understand the differences between the three main English points of view, you might find our other article on English grammar terms helpful.

You can see our full list of English grammar terms on our grammar dictionary.

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