Grammatical person

Last updated

In linguistics, grammatical person is the grammatical distinction between deictic references to participant(s) in an event; typically the distinction is between the speaker (first person), the addressee (second person), and others (third person). First person includes the speaker (English: I, we, me, and us), second person is the person or people spoken to (English: you), and third person includes all that are not listed above (English: he, she, it, they, etc.) [1] Grammatical person typically defines a language's set of personal pronouns. It also frequently affects verbs, and sometimes nouns or possessive relationships.



In Indo-European languages, first-, second-, and third-person pronouns are typically also marked for singular and plural forms, and sometimes dual form as well (grammatical number).

Inclusive/exclusive distinction

Some other languages use different classifying systems, especially in the plural pronouns. One frequently found difference not present in most Indo-European languages is a contrast between inclusive and exclusive "we": a distinction of first-person plural pronouns between including or excluding the addressee.


Many languages express person with different morphemes in order to distinguish degrees of formality and informality. A simple honorific system common among European languages is the T–V distinction. Some other languages have much more elaborate systems of formality that go well beyond the T–V distinction, and use many different pronouns and verb forms that express the speaker's relationship with the people they are addressing. Many Malayo-Polynesian languages, such as Javanese and Balinese, are well known for their complex systems of honorifics; Japanese, Korean and Chinese also have similar systems to a lesser extent.

Effect on verbs

In many languages, the verb takes a form dependent on the person of the subject and whether it is singular or plural. In English, this happens with the verb to be as follows:

Other verbs in English take the suffix -s to mark the present tense third person singular, excluding singular 'they'.

In many languages, such as French, the verb in any given tense takes a different suffix for any of the various combinations of person and number of the subject.

Additional persons

The grammar of some languages divide the semantic space into more than three persons. The extra categories may be termed fourth person, fifth person, etc. Such terms are not absolute but can refer depending on context to any of several phenomena.

Some Algonquian languages and Salishan languages divide the category of third person into two parts: proximate for a more topical third person, and obviative for a less topical third person. [2] The obviative is sometimes called the fourth person.

The term fourth person is also sometimes used for the category of indefinite or generic referents, which work like one in English phrases such as "one should be prepared" or people in people say that..., when the grammar treats them differently from ordinary third-person forms.[ citation needed ] The so-called "zero person" [3] [4] in Finnish and related languages, in addition to passive voice may serve to leave the subject-referent open. Zero person subjects are sometimes translated as "one," but the problem with that is that English language constructions involving one, e.g. "One hopes that will not happen," are rare[ citation needed ] and could be considered expressive of an overly academic tone to the majority of people, while Finnish sentences like "Ei saa koskettaa" ("Not allowed to touch") are recognizable to and used by young children in both languages.

English pronouns in the nominative case

PronounPerson and numberGender
I First-person singular
we First-person plural
you Second-person singular or second-person plural
he Third-person masculine singularmasculine
she Third-person feminine singularfeminine
it Third-person neuter (and inanimate) singularneuter
one Third-person gender-neutral singularcommon
they Third-person plural or gender-neutral singular epicene
me First-person singular, dialectal Caribbean English and colloquial special uses
thee Second-person singular, literary, dialectal Yorkshire, and occasional use by Quakers
allyuh Second-person plural, many English-based creole languages, dialectal Caribbean English
unuSecond-person plural, many English-based creole languages, dialectal Caribbean English
y'all Second-person plural, dialectal Southern American, Texan English, and African American English
ye Second-person plural, dialectal Hiberno-English and Newfoundland English
yinz Second-person plural, Scots, dialectal Scottish English, Pittsburgh English
you guys Second-person plural, dialectal American English and Canadian English
you(r) lotSecond-person plural, dialectal British English
youseSecond-person plural, Australian English, many urban American dialects like New York City English and Chicago English, as well as Ottawa Valley English. Sporadic usage in some British English dialects, such as Mancunian.
yourse Second-person plural, Scots, dialect Central Scottish Lowlands, Scouse, Cumbrian, Tyneside, Hiberno English.
usFirst-person plural subject, as in, us guys are going...
themThird-person plural subject, as in, them girls drove...
thou Second-person singular informal subject
thee Second-person singular informal object
ye Second-person plural

See also



Related Research Articles

In linguistics and grammar, a pronoun is a word that substitutes for a noun or noun phrase.

In linguistics, grammatical number is a grammatical category of nouns, pronouns, adjectives and verb agreement that expresses count distinctions. English and other languages present number categories of singular or plural, both of which are cited by using the hash sign (#) or by the numero signs "No." and "Nos." respectively. Some languages also have a dual, trial and paucal number or other arrangements.

English grammar Grammar of the English language

English grammar is the way in which meanings are encoded into wordings in the English language. This includes the structure of words, phrases, clauses, sentences, and whole texts.

This article deals with the grammar of the Finnish language. For the ways in which the spoken language differs from the written language, see Colloquial Finnish. Unlike the languages spoken in neighbouring countries, such as Swedish and Norwegian, which are North Germanic languages, Finnish is a Uralic language. Typologically, Finnish is agglutinative, and is somewhat unique among the languages of Europe in having vowel harmony.

The T–V distinction is the contextual use of different pronouns that exists in some languages, and serves to convey formality or familiarity. Its name comes from the Latin pronouns tu and vos. The distinction takes a number of forms, and indicates varying levels of politeness, familiarity, courtesy, age or even insult toward the addressee. The field that studies and describes this phenomenon is sociolinguistics.

The plural, in many languages, is one of the values of the grammatical category of number. The plural of a noun typically denotes a quantity greater than the default quantity represented by that noun. This default quantity is most commonly one. Therefore, plurals most typically denote two or more of something, although they may also denote fractional, zero or negative amounts. An example of a plural is the English word cats, which corresponds to the singular cat.

A third-person pronoun is a pronoun that refers to an entity other than the speaker or listener. The English pronouns he and she are third-person personal pronouns specific to the gender of the person . The English pronoun they is an epicene (gender-neutral) third-person pronoun that can refer to plural antecedents of any gender and, informally, to a singular antecedent that refers to a person of either or unknown gender, the "singular they". The singular English pronoun it implies that the antecedent has no gender, making it inappropriate in contexts where the antecedent is known to have a gender, but what that gender is is not known.

The imperative mood is a grammatical mood that forms a command or request.

Animacy is a grammatical and semantic feature, existing in some languages, expressing how sentient or alive the referent of a noun is. Widely expressed, animacy is one of the most elementary principles in languages around the globe and is a distinction acquired as early as six months of age.

In linguistics, an impersonal verb is one that has no determinate subject. For example, in the sentence "It rains", rain is an impersonal verb and the pronoun it does not refer to anything. In many languages the verb takes a third person singular inflection and often appears with an expletive subject. In the active voice, impersonal verbs can be used to express operation of nature, mental distress, and acts with no reference to the do-er. Impersonal verbs are also called weather verbs because they frequently appear in the context of weather description. Also, indefinite pronouns may be called "impersonal", as they refer to an unknown person, like one or someone, and there is overlap between the use of the two.

Agreement or concord happens when a word changes form depending on the other words to which it relates. It is an instance of inflection, and usually involves making the value of some grammatical category "agree" between varied words or parts of the sentence.

Personal pronouns are pronouns that are associated primarily with a particular grammatical person – first person, second person, or third person. Personal pronouns may also take different forms depending on number, grammatical or natural gender, case, and formality. The term "personal" is used here purely to signify the grammatical sense; personal pronouns are not limited to people and can also refer to animals and objects.

The Ojibwe language is an Algonquian American Indian language spoken throughout the Great Lakes region and westward onto the northern plains. It is one of the largest American Indian languages north of Mexico in terms of number of speakers, and exhibits a large number of divergent dialects. For the most part, this article describes the Minnesota variety of the Southwestern dialect. The orthography used is the Fiero Double-Vowel System.

This article describes the grammar of Tigrinya, a South Semitic language which is spoken primarily in Eritrea and Ethiopia, and is written in Ge'ez script.

English pronouns Category of words in English that prototypically "stand in" for other noun phrases

The English pronouns form a relatively small category of words in Modern English whose primary semantic function is that of a pro-form for a noun phrase. Traditional grammars consider them to be a distinct category, while most modern grammars see them as a subcategory of noun, along with common and proper nouns.[p. 22] Still others see them as a subcategory of determiner. In this article, they are treated as a subtype of the noun category.

In linguistics, clusivity is a grammatical distinction between inclusive and exclusive first-person pronouns and verbal morphology, also called inclusive "we" and exclusive "we". Inclusive "we" specifically includes the addressee, while exclusive "we" specifically excludes the addressee, regardless of who else may be involved. While imagining that this sort of distinction could be made in other persons is straightforward, in fact the existence of second-person clusivity in natural languages is controversial and not well attested. While clusivity is not a feature of standard English language, it is found in many languages around the world.

In linguistics, an honorific is a grammatical or morphosyntactic form that encodes the relative social status of the participants of the conversation. Distinct from honorific titles, linguistic honorifics convey formality FORM, social distance, politeness POL, humility HBL, deference, or respect through the choice of an alternate form such as an affix, clitic, grammatical case, change in person or number, or an entirely different lexical item. A key feature of an honorific system is that one can convey the same message in both honorific and familiar forms—i.e., it is possible to say something like "The soup is hot" in a way that confers honor or deference on one of the participants of the conversation.

This article deals with the grammar of the Udmurt language.

Toʼabaita language

Toʼabaita, also known as Toqabaqita, Toʼambaita, Malu and Maluʼu, is a language spoken by the people living at the north-western tip of Malaita Island, of South Eastern Solomon Islands. Toʼabaita is an Austronesian language.

The T–V distinction is a contrast, within one language, between various forms of addressing one's conversation partner or partners. This may be specialized for varying levels of politeness, social distance, courtesy, familiarity, age or insult toward the addressee. The T–V distinction occurs in a number of world's languages.


  1. Hattum, Ton van (2006). "First, Second, Third Person: Grammatical Person". Ton van Hattum.
  2. Harrigan, Atticus G.; Schmirler, Katherine; Arppe, Antti; Antonsen, Lene; Trosterud, Trond; Wolvengrey, Arok (2017-10-30). "Learning from the computational modelling of Plains Cree verbs". Morphology. Springer Nature. 27 (4): 565–598. doi:10.1007/s11525-017-9315-x. ISSN   1871-5621.
  3. Laitinen, Lea (2006). Helasvuo, Marja-Liisa; Campbell, Lyle (eds.). "0 person in Finnish: A grammatical resource for construing human evidence". Grammar from the Human Perspective: Case, space and person in Finnish. Amsterdam: Benjamins: 209–232.
  4. Leinonen, Marja (1983). "Generic zero subjects in Finnish and Russian". Scando-Slavica. 29 (1): 143–161. doi:10.1080/00806768308600841.