Point of View: First, Second, and Third Person

There are three main ways to describe points of view: first, second, and third person.

  • The first-person point of view uses the I/we perspective.
  • The second-person point of view uses the you perspective.
  • The third-person point of view uses the he/she/it/they perspective.

First-Person Point of View

We typically speak in the first person when we’re talking about ourselves, our opinions, and the things that happen in our lives. The easiest way to tell that a sentence is written in the first person is to look for the use of first-person pronouns. These pronouns include I, me, my, mine, and myself, as well as we, us, our, and ourselves. I, me, my, mine, and myself are singular first-person pronouns, while we, us, our, and ourselves are plural first-person pronouns. 

  • think lost my purse! I‘ve looked for it everywhere! I‘m really kicking myself for forgetting where put it!
  • We could do ourselves a favor by reserving our table ahead of time. 

You’ll find that many poems, stories, and novels are written in the first-person point of view. This type of narrative allows you to get inside a character’s mind and watch as the story unfolds through that particular character’s eyes. 

Second-Person Point of View

Unlike the first-person point of view, the second-person point of view is focused on the person or people who are being addressed. You can remember the second-person point of view as the “you” perspective. Here, you’re looking for the use of second-person pronouns, such as you, your, yours, yourself, and yourselves. 

  • You can wait here; make yourself at home!
  • You guys should be proud of yourselves.

While there are some novels and other pieces written in the second person, they’re pretty rare compared to narratives written in the first- or third-person perspective. 

Third-Person Point of View

In the third-person point of view, the person or people being talked about forms the perspective. There are many third-person pronouns: he, him, his, himself, she, her, hers, herself, it, its, itself, they, them, their, theirs, and themselves. 

  • Chelsea used her prize money from the competition to buy herself a new computer.
  • The audience roared their approval when they saw the star come onstage.

It’s important to note that you can’t always use pronouns to determine the perspective of a sentence. This is because not all sentences include pronouns, especially those in the third-person perspective.

  • Shane always hated school.

If you can look at the sentence, identify the subject (Shane), and realize that Shane is not you, you can eliminate the first-person. You can also question whether the sentence is speaking to Shane, and since it isn’t, that eliminates the second-person point of view. Therefore, you’re left with the third-person perspective.

There are tons of poems, stories, and novels written in the third person. With this type of narrative, a disembodied narrator explains what the characters do and feel. Although you aren’t able to see the story through a character’s eyes directly, a third-person narrator typically describes their thoughts and feelings to give the reader plenty of insight. 

 

Graphic showing first person, second person and third person point of view narrative

Speaking in the Third Person

Generally, when people talk about themselves, they speak in the first-person point of view. It would definitely be strange to hear someone constantly speaking about themselves in the third person! However, it’s possible to use the third-person point of view occasionally for comedic effect.

Sarah: Let’s get pasta for lunch. It’s Fernando’s favorite!

Gabriel: No, Fernando hates pasta. I think he’d prefer to get sandwiches.

Fernando: Excuse me, does Fernando get a vote?

Related: Third-Person Voice Writing Techniques For Business

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