Third Person

What Is Third Person?

The term "third person" refers to someone else, i.e., not the speaker ("I," "me"), a group including the speaker ("we," "us"), or the speaker's audience ("you"). For example:
  • I am speaking to you about her.
  • ("I" is the speaker, so "I" is in the first person. "You" is the person being spoken to, so "you" is in the second person. "Her" is in the third person.)
Whenever you use a noun (as opposed to pronoun like above), then the noun is in the third person. For example:
  • The policeman is speaking to the teacher about Anne.
  • ("The policeman," "the teacher," and "Anne" are all in the third person because they are not the speaker and not the person being spoken to.)

Table of Contents

  • "Third Person" Explained
  • Third Person in Grammar
  • Examples of Third Person Pronouns in Different Cases
  • First, Second, and Third Person Pronouns
  • Why the Third Person Is Important
  • Video Lesson
  • Test Time!
third person in grammar

"Third Person" Explained

"Third person" most commonly appears in the phrases "third-person narrative," "to write in the third person," and "third-party (or -person) insurance."
  • Third Person Narrative. A third-person narrative is a story told using the pronouns "he," "she," "it," or "they" or using nouns. In other words, the story is not told from a personal perspective. A third-person narrative contrasts with a first-person narrative, which is a story told from a personal perspective using the pronoun "I" (and sometimes "we").
  • To Write in the Third Person. "To write in the third person" means to use nouns or the pronouns "he," "she," "it," or "they." It is common in business writing.
  • Third Party Insurance. Third-party insurance protects against the claims of others. Look at the following sentence: I (the first party) am ensured by you, the insurer (the second party), to protect me against them (the third party).

Third Person in Grammar

The personal pronouns ("I," "you," "he," "she," "it," "we," "they") are grouped into one of three categories:
What is first, second, and third person in grammar?
Note: First person refers to the speaker himself or a group that includes the speaker (i.e.," I," "me," "we," and "us"). Second person refers to the speaker's audience (i.e., "you").

Examples of Third Person Pronouns in Different Cases

Here are the third person pronouns in the subjective case, the objective case, and the possessive case:
PersonSubjective CaseObjective CasePossessive Case
Possessive Determiner
Possessive Case
Possessive Pronouns
Third Person Singular he / she / it

Example: He is not happy.
him / her / it

Example: We saw him.
his / her / its

Example: We were her support.
his / hers / its

These were hers.
Third Person Plural they

Example: They are leaving.

Example: We like them.

Example: We were their allies.

These are theirs.
With third person singular, the pronouns reflect gender.

First, Second, and Third Person Pronouns

The table below shows the first, second, and third person pronouns. The third person pronouns are shaded.
PersonSubjective CaseObjective CasePossessive Case
Possessive Determiner
Possessive Case
Possessive Pronouns
First Person Singular I me my mine
Second Person Singular you you your yours
Third Person Singular he/she/it him/her/it his/her/its his/hers/its
First Person Plural we us our ours
Second Person Plural you you your yours
Third Person Plural they them their theirs
Here are four good reasons to care about the third person.

(Reason 1) Understanding the person categories is useful for learning a foreign language.

The vast majority of teachers and reference books use the person categories to explain how grammar works (particularly verbs). Therefore, understanding terms like "first person singular" and "third person plural" is useful when learning a foreign language. Here are some examples of how the person categories appear in language books:
Person English German French Spanish
First Person Singular I play ich spiele je joue yo juego
Second Person Singular you play du spielst tu joues tu juegas
Third Person Singular he/she/it plays er/sie/es spielt il/elle joue el/ella/usted juega
First Person Plural we play wir spielen nous jouons nosotros jugamos
Second Person Plural you play ihr spielt vous jouez vosotros jagais
Third Person Plural they play Sie spielen ils/ells jouent ellos/ellas/ustedes juegan

(Reason 2) Using the third person presents a formal air.

When talking about yourself, using the third person presents a formal air. For example:
  • Avro Corps will handle your complaint within 48 hours.
Conversely, writing in the first person is useful to portray a personal touch. For example:
  • We will handle your complaint within 48 hours.

(Reason 3) Using the third person for storytelling can make you seem all-knowing.

Using the third person in storytelling can portray the author as all-knowing. By using the third person, an author can highlight failings and raise observations about their characters from a judge- or God-like position. As a result, the reader will not consider the author's limitations when learning about the characters, only the characters' limitations. Therefore, if a character makes a basic mistake or says something stupid, the author can judge it without being tarnished by it.

So, while writing in the first person can be engaging, writing in the third person affords the author considerable freedoms. Read more about writing in the first person.

(Reason 4) The third-person possessive determiner "its" not "it's."

The contraction "it's" means "it is" or "it has."

The neuter possessive determiner is "its." It is not "it's."

It is a grammatical howler to confuse "it's" and its." Read more about "its" and "it's." Watch a video summarizing "grammatical person" (i.e., first person, second person, and third person) video lesson

Are you a visual learner? Do you prefer video to text? Here is a list of all our grammar videos.

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This page was written by Craig Shrives.