Person in English Grammar – Kinds and Usages
In English dictionary ‘person’ refers to a single unit of people (set of persons), a human being and an individual. English grammar has another meaning (or another form, you can say) of Person which does not always refer to people only; it may be an object and a abstract thing too.
In an English sentence, Person determines if someone is making a statement or if the statement is made to someone or if the statement is made about someone or something. Confusing a bit? Well, let’s take an example to understand it better.
I saw you yesterday playing with John
In this sentence, ‘I’ is making a statement. The statement is made to ‘You’. But, ‘I’ is talking about someone who is ‘John’. So, we find three people here. These three people are the three Persons.
English grammar has three persons namely-
- I gave Stella my English notebook;
- Stella returned my notebook yesterday;
- Stella took me to her home;
- We played computer games together;
- Our clash on games was intriguing;
- Stella’s mom called us for the lunch.
Check out the words in bold in the above sentences. These are the set number of First persons in English in three different cases. We will see ‘case‘ in the next chapter. But I believe you got it by now.
Note: ‘Mine’ and ‘Ours’ are used as subject and object in a sentence and they stand on their own.
- This book is not mine (=this is not my book)
- Ours is a big school (=our school is big. However, this sentence must follow another sentence which corresponds to this sentence and refers to ‘school’ here).
More elaboration: I saw his school. Wow! it’s really a big school, buddy!. Huh! ours is a huge one too. (You can use ‘mine’ as well instead of ‘ours’)
Second Person→ When a statement is made to someone, that ‘spoken-to‘ person is Second person. Like first person, second persons too have fixed set of cases. Second persons are always ‘You’, both in singular and plural usages.
- You were in the rehearsal room practising salsa;
- Your dance was awesome;
- Everyone in the school congratulated you on your success in the competition.
Note: The second person ‘You’ refers to both singular and plural and are used accordingly. The corresponding parts of speech in a sentence demystify the differences.
- You are looking handsome tonight. [You- as singular here]
- Both of you are looking handsome. [You- as plural here. 'Both' implies this.]
- I told my friends, “Thank you for your help.” [You- as plural here. Check out the words 'friends'. I am referring them as 'you']
- I told John,” Thank you for your help.” [You as singular here. I am talking to John]
Third Person→ The third person comprises everything other the first and second persons. When a statement is made about someone or something, third person is used. For examples: He, his, him, she, her, hers,it, its, it, they, their, them and other nouns are all third persons in different cases.
- He is a good performer.
- I like his performance the other day in the town hall.
- We met him soon after his performance and congratulated him for his outstanding dancing feat.
- It is a good book.
- I like its content
- I recommend it to all of my friends.
- They bought the book I recommended.
- Their results showed improvement after consulting the book.
- The book really helped them a lot.
Apart from what said above, all other nouns or pronouns used in a sentence are third persons. Parents, Matthew, Your car, Taj Mahal, the train…. all fall into the category of ‘third person’.
An elaborate example:
You and I will meet the principal today and talk about the college’s annual function. He should agree to our proposal and permit us to hold the annual festival in the college auditorium this year. Your layout of the program is good but I would suggest you to make a few changes in it. The audience will for sure like the program. But they must be properly seated. We need to look after them. The program must cater to their satisfaction.
Note: Hover your mouse on the bold colored words and you will get the Persons of them.
So, we have learnt what a Person is in English grammar and we’ have also seen some examples and usages of them. Summing things up, I, My, Me, Mine, We, Our, Us, Ours are First persons which are the speakers in sentences.
You, Your, You, Yours (Repeat the same in the plural forms) are all Third Persons which are spoken to and are the speakerss direct audience.
He, His, Him, She, Her, Hers, It, Its, It, They, Their, Them and any other noun or pronoun, be it in singular or plural, are Third Persons who are spoken about.
Do let me know if I have anything else to add here or if I need to discuss further. Your comments will be welcome.