Grammatical person


Grammatical person

Grammatical person, in linguistics, is deictic reference to a participant in an event, such as the speaker, the addressee, or others. Grammatical person typically defines a language's set of personal pronouns. It also frequently affects verbs, sometimes nouns, and possessive relationships as well.

Grammatical person in English

English distinguishes three grammatical persons:The personal pronouns "I" (singular) and "we" (plural) are in the first person. The personal "you" is in the second person. It refers to the addressee. "You" is used in both the singular and plural; "thou" is the archaic informal second-person singular pronoun.

"He", "she", "it", and "they" are in the third person. Any person, place, or thing other than the speaker and the addressee is referred to in the third person.

See English personal pronouns, and the following articles on specific grammatical persons, or their corresponding personal pronouns:

Additional persons

In Indo-European languages, first-, second-, and third-person pronouns are all marked for singular and plural form, and sometimes dual form as well (see grammatical number). Some languages, especially European, distinguish degrees of formality and informality. See T-V distinction.

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 pronouns of including or excluding the addressee.

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 and Korean also have similar systems to a lesser extent.

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

*I "am" (first-person singular)
*you "are"/thou "art" (second-person singular)
*he, she, one or it "is" (third-person singular)
*we "are" (first-person plural)
*you "are"/ye "are" (second-person plural)
*they "are" (third-person plural)

The grammars 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 languages, including among 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. The obviative is sometimes called the fourth person.

The term "fourth person" is also sometimes used for the category of indefinite or generic referents, that 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. For example, the so-called "passive tense" in Finnish and related languages is actually not a tense, and has the same meaning as a phrase with subjects "one" or "people" in English.

ee also

* Grammatical conjugation
* Grammatical number
* Personal pronoun
* English personal pronouns
* Gender-neutral pronoun
* Gender-specific pronoun
* Generic antecedents
* Generic you
* Singular they
* Verb


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