Grammar 6 min read

First, Second, and Third Person: Points of View in Writing

Main Takeaways:

  • First-person indicates the author is writing about his/her feelings and/or point of view.
  • First-person can be singular or plural and uses pronouns like I, me, and we.
  • The second person addresses the person being spoken to.
  • First-person POV can be direct, using pronouns like you and your, or implied.
  • Third-person POV refers to outside entities like objects or people other than the author or the reader.

The concept of the first, second, and third person can be confusing. Your professor may request an essay in the third person, and you’re trying to figure out who else is in the room beside you and her. First-person—is that like Neil Armstrong being the first human to step on the moon?

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Kidding aside, finding the right point of view that serves both your topic and your purpose doesn’t have to be stressful. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through all three perspectives and even offer up examples. Get ready—you’re about to become an expert!

A young girl saying I, we. A man saying you. A boy saying he, she, it, they. They represent the first, second, and third person points of view.
Writers use first, second, and third person in writing to describe points of view.

What are First, Second, and Third Person Points of View?

To begin with, a point of view refers to the perspective from which a piece of content is written. In writing, there are three types of points of view: the first, second, and third person. If you’re using the first person in your writing, it means that you’re the speaker. You narrate the story from your perspective. Now, if you’re using the second person POV, you are addressing your readers. Last but not least, the third-person perspective indicates that you are addressing the third party.

What is First Person?

Writing in first-person means you use pronouns that make it clear the text is about you. These may include “I,” “me,” and “my.”

I went to the store to buy milk.
My dentist told me I had the pointiest incisors he’d ever seen.
My heart went wild when I saw him come through the door.

First-person pronouns can also be plural and refer to several people. In that case, the speaker would be talking about the group as a plural first person. Plural first-person pronouns may include “we,” ‘us,” “our,” and “ourselves.”

We had tickets to the concert.
Even the rain couldn’t keep us from having a great day.
Our dorm room is full of cheese crackers and dirty clothes.
It’s always nice when the kids go to bed early, and we have the rest of the evening to ourselves.

Sometimes, authors turn to first-person narration as a way to draw in the reader and make a connection. It’s easier to identify with the protagonist of a novel, for example, when you read the dialogue in their voice. Understanding the star character’s perspective is important.

Need a trick to keep things straight? Remember this: You like to put yourself first. Therefore, “you” is first person!

A cute illustration of René Descartes while thinking of his famous statement,
René Descartes’ famous statement, “I think, therefore I am,” can be understood in three ways: as the real self, as the self that is constituted by the act of thinking, and as the first-person point of view.

What is Second Person?

Second person addresses the person being spoken to, likely the reader. Though the second person can be used in fiction writing, it’s rare. It’s also uncommon to use the second person in scripts, as it’s considered breaking the fourth wall. You’ll most frequently see the second person used in direct communications, such as a letter or email. It’s also ideal for blogs, instructional guides, and other content that’s designed to compel the reader into action.

Second person pronouns can also be singular or plural and may include “you,” “your,” “yours,” “yourself,” and “yourselves.”

If you want to learn how to write well, read this handy-dandy blog!
It’s your choice whether you eat the frosting with a spoon or your hands.
Discuss it amongst yourselves.

You can wait in the lobby until your room is ready.

There is also a form of second person called implied second person. The POV is implied because you’re talking to the reader without ever saying “you” or “your.”

Pick up the pen and sign the contract.
Don’t go via the highway; there’s an accident blocking the left lane.
To properly fold a fitted sheet, try laying it down on the floor and asking a genie for help.

What is Third Person?

Third person removes the reader and writer from the equation. Instead, the content refers to outside objects, people, or places. Think of it like transferring ownership of the text to the person or thing being talked about.

Third-person pronouns include “she,” “her,” “hers,” “her,” “his,” “it,” “its,” “they,” “them,” “their,” and “theirs.”

He couldn’t believe his luck.
The students lined up at the end of class to pick up their test results.
It was a dark and stormy night.
They left the store with four bags of new clothes.

Much like the second person, a third-person perspective can be implied. You may not see pronouns like “them” or “him,” but it will be clear that the author is talking about a third party.

Beatrice was the only person left without a rose.
When it comes to knitting, Ethel is the best in town.
First, Second, and Third Person Different Points of View. First panel reads: First-person: When we talk about ourselves. Examples I, me, and my. Second panel reads: Second person refers to the person or people being addressed. Examples you, your, yours, yourself, yourselves. Third panel reads: Third person removes the reader and the author from the equation to refer to external objects, places, and people. Examples she, her, hers, his, it, its, they. Fourth panel shows a boy writing
First, Second, and Third Person POV Infographic

Third-person is the go-to choice for many fiction writers who want the ability to narrate their stories freely. With the third person, authors can describe a character’s emotions or inner dialogue without claiming it. In other words, they invite the reader in without involving them directly. It also comes across as being more objective. A narrator who uses “I” or “me” would likely be biased. Therefore, writing in the third person indicates the author has little to no personal stake in the story.

Point of ViewSingularPlural
First PersonI, me, mine, mywe, us, our, ours
Second Personyou, your, yoursyou, your, yours
Third Personhe, she, him, her,
his, her, hers, it,its
they, them, their,theirs
First, Second, and Third Person Pronouns

Think of who You’re Writing for

Most of the time, choosing between first, second, and third-person depends on what you’re writing and for whom. The one thing you want to avoid 99% of the time is speaking in the third person. If your name is Laura and you catch yourself saying, “Laura really needs some coffee,” prepare to be teased.

Quick Grammar Quiz on First, Second, and Third Person

First, Second, Third Person Question #1

In writing, _______ refers to the perspective from which a story is written.
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is A. Point of view describes the perspective from which a piece of content is written.

Point of View Question #2

Which of these is NOT a point of view in writing?
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is D. Fourth-person point of view doesn't exist.

First Person Question #3

Which of these is NOT a first-person sentence?
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is B. The sentence is written from a third-person point of view.

Third Person Question #4

Which of these is NOT a third-person pronoun?
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is C. “You” is a second-person pronoun.

Third Person Question #5

Writing in the third person indicates the author has no personal stake in the story.
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is TRUE. Third-person point of view allows authors to describe a character's emotions or inner dialogue without claiming it.

First, Second, and Third Person
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Read More: How To Use Not Only… But Also In A Sentence

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Krista Grace Morris

Krista heads up Marketing and Content Creation here at INK. From Linguistics and History to puns and memes, she's interested in the systems we create to share our ideas with each other.

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