First, Second and Third Person
Find out what Oscar Wilde had to declare upon arriving at U.S. customs in 1882 by playing this quiz.

First, Second and Third Person

First, second and third person is about writing from different perspectives. The personal pronouns can be divided into three groups as follows:

  • First person (the person speaking): I, we.
  • Second person (the person spoken to): you.
  • Third person (the person spoken about): he, she, it, they.

Next time you are reading a book, take note of which person it is written in. You may find the whole book is written in third person or that some chapters are in first person and so on. You could also try writing three pieces - each in a different person. This will really improve your English skills.

Do this 11-plus quiz and get comfortable with 'person' and learn a few quotations too.

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  1. Decide if the text has been written in the first, second or third person.
    "I have nothing to declare except my genius." - Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) upon arriving at U.S. customs 1882
    'I' is the first person (singular); we is the first person (plural)
  2. Decide if the text has been written in the first, second or third person.
    "We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out." - Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962
    'We' is the first person plural: the speaker is included in the group of people who are commenting about the Beatles: how wrong they were!
  3. Decide if the text has been written in the first, second or third person.
    He was a very good athlete: he trained regularly, and he watched his diet.
    'He' is the third person singular: the writer is telling us something about him
  4. Decide if the text has been written in the first, second or third person.
    "He is one of those people who would be enormously improved by death." - H. H. Munro (Saki) (1870-1916)
    The writer is commenting about someone: 'he' is the third person singular
  5. Decide if the text has been written in the first, second or third person.
    "Don't stay in bed, unless you can make money in bed." - George Burns (1896-1996)
    The speaker is addressing 'you': you might be an individual (singular) or two or more people (plural)
  6. Decide if the text has been written in the first, second or third person.
    "You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you." - Leon Trotsky (1879-1940)
    Trotsky is talking to 'you': you might be an individual (singular) or two or more people (plural)
  7. Decide if the text has been written in the first, second or third person.
    "We didn't lose the game; we just ran out of time." - Vince Lombardi
    'We' is the first person plural: the speaker is included in the group of people
  8. Decide if the text has been written in the first, second or third person.
    "Try to learn something about everything and everything about something." - Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895)
    There's no pronoun here, but it doesn't mean that it hasn't been written in a particular person. The verb 'try' indicates that the writer is speaking to 'you': you might be an individual (singular) or two or more people (plural)
  9. Decide if the text has been written in the first, second or third person.
    They arrived late but safe after their dangerous journey.
    'They' is the third person plural: the writer tells us something about how they arrived
  10. Decide if the text has been written in the first, second or third person.
    "I can write better than anybody who can write faster, and I can write faster than anybody who can write better." - A. J. Liebling (1904-1963)
    'I' is the first person (singular); we is the first person (plural)

Author: Frank Evans

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