What Is 'Person' in Grammar? (with Examples)
Grammatical PersonPerson is a category used to distinguish between (1) those speaking, (2) those being addressed, and (3) those who are neither speaking nor being addressed (i.e., everybody else). These three categories are called the first person, the second person, and the third person.
More about Person
- The First Person. This category is used for the point of view of the speaker or a group that includes the speaker. A basic sentence in the first person would typically start "I [did something]" or "We [did something]." (In grammar, the first-person personal pronouns are I, me, we, and us.)
- The Second Person. This category is used for those being spoken to. A basic sentence in the second person would start "You [did something]." (In grammar, the second-person pronoun is you.)
- The Third Person. This category is used for everyone else. A basic sentence in the third person would start "He [did something]", "She [did something]," or "They [did something]." (In grammar, the third-person pronouns are he, him, she, her, it, they, and them. The third person also includes all other nouns, e.g., Fritz, Germans.)
A Video SummaryWatch a video summarizing this lesson on grammatical person.
How "Person" Relates to the Personal PronounsAs well as being categorized as one of three "person" categories, each personal pronoun is also categorized as either singular or plural. Therefore, there are six person categories overall.
The table below shows the pronouns in the six person categories and in the various cases.
|Person||Subjective Case||Objective Case||Possessive Determiner||Possessive Pronoun|
|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|
Examples of PersonThe idea of grammatical person is used in some everyday terms:
- First-person gaming. In video games, first-person games show the viewpoint of the player's character. In other words, when I play the game, the graphics are rendered from my perspective (i.e., what I can see).
- First-person narrative. In storytelling, a first-person narrative relays events using "I" or "we."
- Third-party insurance. Third-party insurance protects against the claims of others. Here's more: I (the first party) am ensured by you, the insurer (the second party), to protect me against them (the third party).
Why Should I Care about Person?The overwhelming majority of native speakers – even those who've never heard the term grammatical person before – can use all the pronouns and adjectives in the table above flawlessly. Nevertheless, there are two good reasons to be familiar with the person categories.
(Reason 1) Understanding the person categories is useful for learning a foreign language.Understanding terms like "first person singular" and "third person plural" is extremely useful when learning a foreign language because the vast majority of teachers and reference books use the person categories to explain how grammar works (especially verbs).
|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) Choosing the right person can help portray the right image.Choose the right person? Yup, I'm still talking about grammatical person. If you want to portray a personal touch or show responsibility for your actions, write in the first person (i.e., use "I" or "we"). For example:
- I will handle your claim within 24 hours.
- Lees Ltd will handle your claim within 24 hours.
- Your claim will be handled within 24 hours by Lees Ltd.