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Grammatical Person‏‎ in English

Cartoon boy pointing at cartoon girl. In grammar person is used to show the relationship between the speaker and the listener or the writer and the reader.

For example, if I talk about myself I use the pronoun I but if someone talks to me, they use the pronoun you.

So depending on the person doing the talking and who they are talking about, pronouns and verb forms can change. Persons can also affect nouns and possessive relationships.

6 Grammatical Persons

English has 3 grammatical persons in the singular and 3 in the plural:

Singular

First person – I

Second person – you

Third person – she, he, it

Plural

First person – we

Second person – you

Third person – they

Quite simply, when a sentence or part of speech(verb, noun, pronoun, etc.) is in the first person singular it refers to the speaker or writer.

When it is in the first person plural it refers to a group that includes the speaker or writer.

If the sentence or part of speech is in the second person they refer to the person we are talking or writing to.

If they are in the third person they refer to someone or something different from the speaker or writer who is being addressed.

With verbs this translates into different forms depending on the person:

Person Regular, e.g. Irregular, e.g.
first person singular I walk I am
second person singular you walk you are
third person singular he/she/it walks he/she/it is
first person plural we walk we are
second person plural you walk you are
third person plural they walk they are

Spelling

As mentioned above, verbs add an -s to the end for the third person singular:

walk – walks

laugh – laughs

love – loves

If the verb ends in a sibilant sound /s/, /z/, /ʃ/, /tʃ/ (corresponding to the letters s, ch, sh, x or z) however, we add -es to the end:

hiss – hisses

buzz – buzzes

wash – washes

hitch – hitches

if the verb ends in -o we also add -es to the end:

do – does

go – goes

If the verb ends in -y and there is a consonant before it then we replace the -y with -ies:

copy – copies

try – tries

carry – carries

Verbs ending in -y preceded by a vowel follow the standard rule and simply add -s to the end of the verb:

pay – pays

enjoy – enjoys

say -says

Image © Mike Kaner

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