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?
First 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?
Third 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?
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)
- yours (possessive, singular/plural)
- your (possessive, modifying a noun, singular/plural)
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)
- his, hers, its / theirs (possessive, singular/plural)
- his, her, its / their (possessive, modifying a noun, singular/plural)
First, Second, and Third Person in Writing
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.
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.
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
Is you second person? Yes, you is a second person pronoun.
Is they second person? No, they is a one of the third person pronouns.
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.
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.
Is you third person? No, you is a second person pronoun.
Is they third person? Yes, they is a third person pronoun.
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
- Here are a few helpful memory tricks that always help me.
- In the first person writing, I am talking about myself.
- In the second person writing, I am talking to someone.
- In the third person writing, I am talking about someone.
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.
What Is Point of View? First, Second, and Third Person
One of the best ways to prepare for the AP Literature exam is to learn about different literary devices and how you can use them to analyze everything from poetry to novels. Not only will this help you on the multiple choice section of the test, it’s critical for earning perfect scores on your essays, too!
Today, we’re going to take a closer look at one specific device: point of view. First, we’ll give you the point of view definition, then we’ll explain how the work’s narrator affects its point of view. Then we’ll explain the four types of point of view and provide examples and analysis for each one.
By the end of this article, you’ll be a point of view expert! So let’s get started.
Point of View: Definition and Meaning
In literature and poetry, point of view is defined as the perspective from which a story is told. Put another way, a story’s point of view is a way to articulate and analyze the position of the narrator in relation to the story they’re telling.
Is the narrator a participant in the story they’re telling? Or are they describing events that happened to someone else? Both of these perspectives are different types of point of view (which we’ll talk about in a lot more depth later in this article, so hang tight)!
So how do you figure out the point of view in a text? In order to find the point of view of a story, you first have to identify whose perspective the story is told from.
That’s because the perspective of the story determines a piece of literature’s point of view! That means that in order to establish a text’s point of view, you have to figure out the narrator of the text first.
What Is a Narrator?
Okay…so obviously figuring out the narrator of a piece of literature is important. But what’s a narrator, exactly? No matter what type of text you’re reading—whether it’s a newspaper article, a textbook, a poem, or a best-selling novel—someone is communicating the story to the reader. In literary terms, we call that someone the text’s narrator.
In other words, the narrator of a piece of literature is the person telling the story. And you know what’s even more helpful than that? Almost all written texts—whether they’re fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or otherwise—have a narrator.
And since a narrator and point of view go hand in hand, that means that almost all texts have a point of view, too!
Finding the Narrator
So how do you figure out the narrator of a text? Sometimes the narrator of a text is pretty easy to determine. For example, for a newspaper article, the narrator of the story is obviously the reporter who’s written the piece to report the facts. They’re the person who followed the story’s trail, and now they’re sharing the story with you!
Another good example of an “easy to find” comes from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. The very first sentence of the book reads, “Call me Ishmael.
” Because that’s a line in the text rather than a piece of dialogue that uses quotation marks, you know it’s the narrator speaking to the audience.
In other words, the narrator of Moby Dick identifies himself and tells you his name in the very first line of the book!
First, Second and Third Person Point Of View Definition and Examples
Most people have no problem writing in the first person point of view. That may be because doing so, entails someone telling his or her side of the story which comes easy for the majority of us. But what about the second and third person’s point of view writing? If you are unsure about either of them, then here are the first, second and third person point of view definition and examples.
In each of these methods to telling a story or writing style, the personal pronouns are what usually separate them. In the grammatical world and term, the perspective of each person’s point of view is what helps define the story or message. It also sets the tone for how the story written or told.
In the first person point of view example, the singular form of “I” is mostly used. In addition, the writer or person telling the story will use pronouns such “me” or “we” as well. You can use either “We” or “I” in the subjective case to refer to others or yourself.
For the most part, biographies tend to use the first person point of view to tell the story. Or when a person is writing a personal essay about his or herself, in his or her own words. Other pronouns also used are “Me”, or in the possessive case, “Mine”, “My” and “Our/Ours”.
- Be sure to check out these 50 Feelings You Can Portray In Your Writing
- Examples of First Person Writing:
So this is me writing in this article to explain to everyone how I write in the first person. I am telling my examples of a first person style so that we all can understand how our grammar rules work.
First person shooter games are great. I can get to kill all the bad guys and use my weapons in any way I want to.
We never really talked about how the divorced impacted her this year. Instead, we both focused on issues about us.
If you want to get your point across to explain something to someone, you use the second person as I am doing (first person) now in this lesson for everyone (second person). In a second person point of view writing or storytelling, the pronouns mostly used are “You”, “Your” and “Yours.” You can use any of these 3 pronouns so that you can address the audience.
This will allow you to cover one or several people in your story. The use of second person is primarily seen in technical writing – such as this – and in emails and messages. You can also see it for business presentations or when you are being told how exactly you should do something.
- Examples of Second Person Writing:
- Attention everyone:
We have recently learned that the president of the company is coming by this week. Please try and be prepared and have your work area as cleaned and neat as possible. Also, avoid dawdling and appearing as though you are not working. The surprise visit may come when any of us least expect it.
- The above example is a plural second person example.
- A singular second person example are ones you would do when writing an email or letter to someone. Example:
- Dear Angela,
I am really sorry you did not get the promotion you were so eagerly hoping for. Perhaps in the next cycle they will finally notice how much of an asset you are to us all.
First, Second, and Third Person
You probably know what it means to write in the first person, but you may not be as confident about using the second- or third-person point of view. Today we’re going to focus on each of these three points of view.
In grammatical terms, first person, second person, and third person refer to personal pronouns. Each “person” has a different perspective, a “point of view,” and the three points of view have singular and plural forms as well as three case forms.
In the subjective case, the singular form of the first person is “I,” and the plural form is “we.” “I” and “we” are in the subjective case because either one can be used as the subject of a sentence. You constantly use these two pronouns when you refer to yourself and when you refer to yourself with others. Here’s a sentence containing both:
I (first-person singular) look forward to my monthly book club meeting. We (first-person plural) are currently reading Never Have Your Dog Stuffedby Alan Alda.
The first-person point of view is used primarily for autobiographical writing, such as a personal essay or a memoir.
Academics and journalists usually avoid first person in their writing because doing so is believed to make the writing sound more objective; however, using an occasional “I” or “we” can be appropriate in formal papers and articles if a publication’s style allows it. Joseph M.
Williams, author of Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace, agrees: “…deleting an I or we does not make the science objective; it makes reports of it only seem so. We know that behind those impersonal sentences are flesh-and-blood researchers doing, thinking, and writing” (1).
Besides “I” and “we,” other singular first person pronouns include “me” (objective case) and “my” and “mine” (possessive case).
Plural first person pronouns are “us” (objective case) and “our” and “ours” (possessive case).
Those are a lot of forms and cases, so the following example of a sentence that uses the first person—with both singular and plural forms and all three cases—will, I hope, help identify the different uses:
I asked Sam to help me with my Happy New Year mailing, and we somehow got the project done early during the last week of December in spite of our packed schedules. I’m quite proud of us and ended up calling the project ours instead of mine.
For further clarification regarding the eight first-person pronouns just used, here’s a table:
|First Person(singular, plural)||Subjective Case||Objective Case||Possessive Case|
|I, we||me, us||my/mine, our/ours|
- Next: Second Person
First, Second, and Third Person: How to Recognize and Use Narrative Voice
Ah, narrative voice.
It can be tricky. Identifying the point of view in a novel can be somewhat confusing. It doesn't have to be, though! With this handy little guide, we'll help you detect first, second, and third person as simply as possible.
Using the first lines of famous novels, it's time to spot the differences between the different narrative voices. Let's start from, well, the beginning.
First, second, and third person are all a type of grammatical person. To identify which one is used, you have to find the pronouns in the sentence.
In the following sentence, the pronouns “my” and “I” indicate that the person is speaking in the first person:
“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.”
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
In the first person, the speaker is speaking about himself or herself. Simple, right?
The above example is one of the first-person subjective case, meaning it refers to the subject who performs the action. “I” is used for a singular subject, and “we” is used for more than one subject, including the speaker.
There are three cases in total; along with the subjective case, there are also the objective case and the possessive case. The objective case uses the pronoun “me” or “us” to denote the objects of the sentence that receive the action.
“Call me Ishmael.”
—Herman Melville, Moby Dick
Finally, there is the possessive case: “my, mine, ours,” which indicates, of course, possession.
“Lolita, light of my live, fire of my loins.”
—Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
These are all examples of the first-person point of view.
“You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel, If on a winter's night a traveler.”
—Italo Calvino, If on a winter's night a traveler
First, second and third person
The terms first, second and third person are confusing to many English speakers, though they use these categories of grammar in their speech and writing, every day. We will examine exactly what is third person, second person and first person, the difference between them, when they are used and some examples of that use in sentences.
First person, second person and third person refer to point of view. Point of view has implications in telling a story, as well as in grammar.
The grammatical point of view definition concerns which pronouns are used in a particular instance, which also affects which verb inflection is used.
We will examine the grammar involved in first person point of view, second person point of view, and third person point of view, as well as the way to identify 1st person, 2nd person and 3rd person narratives.
First (1st) person point of view is the speaker or writer. The most commonly used first person pronouns are I and we, though me, my, mine, us, our, ours are also first person pronouns. When a person is speaking conversationally, he is speaking in the first person point of view.
Some famous novels written in the first person point of view are The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton.
Writing in first person brings the reader into the main character’s head, however, the narrative is complicated by the fact that the writer can not introduce any information that is unknown to the main character.
First person point of view is rarely depicted in a film, the perspective must be what the character sees with his eyes, making the camera a character. An example of this is the Blair Witch Project. Examples of first person in sentences:
- I am never alone when I have a good book in my hands.
- My daughter eats lunch around noon.
- We often walk around the pond in the middle of the park.
Second (2nd) person point of view is the person who is being spoken to, either verbally or on the page. The most commonly used second person pronoun is you, though your and yours also second person pronouns. When a person writes an email or letter, or writes a how-to book, he usually uses a second person point of view.
Writing a novel in second person is very unusual, though the novel Bright Lights, Big City is a successful example. The depiction of second person point of view is even rarer in film, as the characters on screen would have to be directly addressing the audience, making the audience another character in the story.
Examples of second person in sentences:
- You drive the car on Saturdays.
- Your hair could use a trim.
- Your first order of business should be a quick review of the study guide.
Third (3rd) person point of view is the person who is being spoken about, third person is not me, not you, but another person. The most commonly used third person pronouns are he, she and it, though his, her, hers, its, they, them, and theirs are also third person pronouns.
Third person is the most commonly used point of view in writing fiction, but writing in third person is also the norm for academic papers. Popular novels written in third person point of view are the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling, 1984 by George Orwell, and The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Most films are written in the third person point of view. Examples of the third person in sentences:
- He opened his restaurant last year, and has been successful.
- She was sad when the circus left town.
- His teeth hurt so much that he had to call the dentist.
Remember, first person involves the pronouns I, we, though me, my, mine, us, our, ours, and is from the speaker’s point of view.
Second person involves the pronouns you, your, yours, and is from the listener’s point of view.
Third person involves the pronouns he, she, it, his, her, hers, its, they, them, theirs and involves the person’s point of view that is not the speaker or the listener.