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Second Person

What Is Second Person?

homesitemapA-Z grammar terms second person
The term "second person" refers to the speaker's audience (i.e.,"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.)

Table of Contents

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

"Second Person" Explained

"Second person" is another way of saying "you." In other words, it is the person or people being spoken to. For example:
  • The teacher is speaking to you.
  • The policeman is looking at you.
  • (Even though this example is about looking, the speaker is talking to "you.")
  • You are a star!
The idea of first person, second person, and third person becomes clearer when they are explained together. All the personal pronouns (i.e., "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"). Third person refers to everybody else (e.g., "he," "him," "she," "her," "it," "they," "them"), including all other nouns (e.g., "Bill," "Russians," "termite," "lions").

Second Person in Grammar

Examples of Second Person Pronouns in Different Cases

Here are the second person pronouns in the subjective case, the objective case, and the possessive case:
PersonSubjective CaseObjective CasePossessive Case
Possessive Determiner
Possessive Case
Possessive Pronouns
Second Person Singular you

Example: You left early.
you

Example: She likes you.
your

Example: That was your fault.
yours

These are yours.
Second Person Plural you

Example: You left early.
you

Example: She likes you.
your

Example: That was your fault.
yours

These are yours.
Note: There is no difference in how the "second person singular" and "second person plural" forms are written. We have to rely on context to tell us whether "you" means one person or more than one.

First, Second, and Third Person Pronouns

The table below shows the first, second, and third person pronouns. The second 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

Why the Second Person Is Important

In business writing, the first person adds a personal touch, and the third person adds formality. In storytelling, the first person makes it easier to engage your readers, and the third person affords the author a God-like status (i.e., as an all-seeing narrator). There are no such traits with the second person. It's the least interesting of the three person categories from a writing perspective. Nevertheless, here are three good reasons to care about the second person.

(Reason 1) Be mindful of the difference between "yourself" and "yourselves."

The second-person personal pronoun "you" has two forms: a singular form ("you are") and a plural form ("you are"). Hang on! Nothing changed! They are both "you are"! That's true. But, it's not always true. Look at these examples:
  • You can help yourself to the cakes. correct tick
  • (Here, "you" is singular.)
  • You can help yourselves to the cakes. correct tick
  • (Here, "you" is plural.)

(Reason 3) The subject of an order is "you."

The subject of an imperative sentence (i.e. one that gives an order) is "you." However, most of the time, the "you" is omitted. The "you" is said to be "understood" (i.e., is present without being present). For example:
  • Call me if you need help.
  • (There is an understood "you" in this order.)
  • [You] Call me if you need help.
  • (This is how we treat it, even though we don't say the "you.")
Why does this matter? This point matters because you can only use "yourself" or "yourselves" with an imperative verb (i.e., an order). You can't use "myself." This is a common mistake.
  • Contact your line manager or myself if you have any questions. wrong cross
  • (You can't use "myself" with "you" (even an understood "you" in an order). This should be "me" not "myself.")
Read more about this writing mistake on the "reflexive pronouns" page.

(Reason 3) Understanding the person categories is useful for learning a foreign language.

Teachers and reference books all use the person categories to explain how grammar works (particularly verbs). So, if you are learning a foreign language or teaching English, it is essential to get comfortable with the person categories. 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

Key Point

Video Lesson

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.

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