First, Second, Third Person

Grammatical Person


Many learners of English forget to add an 's' for first person singular in simple present. Some also add an 's' when they shouldn't. One of the causes seems to be that many people have difficulty to recognise third person. The following is to help avoiding errors with third person singular 's' by making it easier to recognise third person.
In languages one can see how humans are extremely egocentric. Everything is divided into three categories: First, Second and Third Person.



First person singular; the most important is:
I
 
I
am the centre of the universe.



Second person; the second most important is:
you
  the one that
I
talk to.



Third person is:
all the rest,
everything that's left over.
Everything that's not
I
not
you



This reduces the problem of recognising third person singular to two simple questions.
- Is it 'I'? If it is 'I' it is first person.
- Is it 'you'? If it is 'you' it is second person.
If it is not 'I', not 'you', it is third person, it is 'the rest'.

Third person is for example:
"the dog",
"my mother",
"her father",
"a bee",
"a symbiotic fungus",
"a chair",
"my exgirlfriend's plan to visit Paris next month",
"the neighbour"
, and, even
"god"
; some people write "God" with a capital letter, but it is third person.

Note: It is important to realise that first person is literally “I”, second person is literally “you”. If I talk about myself using my name the subject of the sentence is not “I” not “you”, it is “the rest”, it’s third person: “Ton is an English teacher.”

Ton van Hattum


First published: 2006-08-21
Last update: 2017-02-15

Copyright © 2006- 2017 Ton van Hattum

Licenca Creative Commons.