What Is A Second-Person Pronoun? Definition And Examples

What is something that you like to do as a hobby? Are your friends’ hobbies the same as yours? Or do you spend a lot of time by yourself? Alright, that’s enough questions. Sorry to put you on the spot, but it was necessary to give some examples of pronouns that are used to refer to … you. It is your time to shine, because we are going to look at pronouns used in the second person point of view. And we can’t do that without talking about … you!

What is second person?

Second person is a point of view that refers to a person or people being addressed by a writer or speaker. For example, the sentence You walked across a bridge uses the second person to say what “you” (the reader or listener) did. Of the three different points of view, second person is often both the least commonly used and the most difficult to use—more on this later!


What is a second-person pronoun?

A second-person pronoun is a pronoun that refers to a person or people that a speaker or writer is addressing. A second-person pronoun doesn’t refer to the speaker/writer themselves nor does it refer to other people that a speaker/writer is not directly addressing.

List of second-person pronouns

All second-person pronouns include or are formed from the word you. Second-person pronouns include:

  • you
  • yours
  • yourself
  • yourselves

Each of these words has a specific function for its use:

  • The word you is the second-person personal pronoun. You can be either singular or plural and can be used as either a subject or an object. You will often need to use context to determine if you is being used to refer to one person or multiple people.
  • Yours is a possessive pronoun. It is used to indicate possession, origin, or other special relationships. Like you, yours can be either singular or plural and be used as either a subject or an object.
  • Yourself and yourselves are used as reflexive pronouns and/or intensive pronouns. Yourself is a singular pronoun and yourselves is a plural pronoun.

Examples of second-person pronouns

The following sentences all include examples of how we use second-person pronouns.

  • You are my best friend.
  • I need you to get me a new paintbrush.
  • This car is nice but yours is nicer.
  • My shoes are black and yours are white.
  • I am impressed that you managed to teach yourself geometry.

Why and when to use second-person pronouns

The second person is a tricky point of view to use. There are certain instances where we may want to use it, however.

To give commands, advice, or directions

We commonly use second-person pronouns when giving another person or people commands, directions, or advice. Usually, we are talking to/texting/calling/emailing a person directly when we do any of these things. The second person also allows us to exclude a subject when using the imperative mood as the subject is understood to be an unstated you.

  • Commands: (You) Pass the salt.
  • Directions: You will drive three miles down Mulberry Street and then take the fourth left.
  • Advice: You should brush and floss your teeth regularly.

To speak to an audience

Often, a writer or speaker will use second-person pronouns to establish a connection with an audience. This is especially likely to be done if a writer or speaker is making an argument or is trying to persuade others to their viewpoint. For example, take a look at these two sentences:

  • I hope that everyone will volunteer for the food drive!
  • I hope that all of you will volunteer for the food drive!

Although the difference is slight, the second sentence has a call to action that the first sentence lacks. The second sentence uses the second-person pronoun you to connect to the listener/speaker on a personal level in an attempt to be more persuasive.

Learn to use the subjunctive mood no matter which perspective you are writing from.

To include a reader in the story

Generally, most authors avoid writing a fiction story—or any other story—in the second person because it is difficult to do effectively and/or suggests that a reader is a character in the story.

However, the second person is used in media such as self-help books, video games, interactive fiction, virtual reality, and roleplay that includes the reader/listener/player as part of the story. For example, a person leading a role-playing game of Dungeons and Dragons might start a story with a sentence like You traverse the cursed woods and come to a haunted castle because the other players (and their characters) are part of the story being told.

Second vs. first and third-person pronouns

Second person is one of three points of view. The other two are first person and third person. First-person pronouns refer to the speaker/writer themselves either as an individual or as part of a group. First-person pronouns include I, me, we, us, mine, ours, myself, and ourselves. Third person refers to a person or people other than the speaker/writer or the individual(s) they are addressing. Third-person pronouns include she, he, it, they, her, him, them, hers, his, and theirs.

In general, a pronoun is chosen based on who is doing what in a sentence. For example:

  • I am a firefighter. (The speaker is a firefighter.)
  • You are a firefighter. (The person the speaker is talking to is a firefighter.)
  • They are firefighters. (A group of people that doesn’t include the speaker nor their audience consists of firefighters.) 
  • I helped you. (The speaker helped the person they are talking to.)
  • You helped him. (The person that the speaker is addressing helped a person that isn’t the speaker or the person being addressed.)
  • They helped us. ( A group of people that doesn’t include the speaker helped a group of people that includes the speaker.)

Grammar Coach™ will help you 

Are your pronouns correct? Are they consistent? You’ll never mistake pronouns again when you check your writing on our grammar tool: Thesaurus.com’s Grammar Coach™. This writing tool uses machine learning technology uniquely designed to catch grammar and spelling errors. Its Synonym Swap will find the best nouns, adjectives, and more to help say what you really mean, guiding you toward clearer, stronger, writing.

Whether you’re writing in first or second person, perfect grammar has never been easier.

How familiar are you with the 6 most common types of adverbs?

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