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What Is A Third-Person Pronoun? Definitions And Examples

Did you know that pronouns love to gossip? It is true! There is nothing they like more than joining us to talk about other people. In particular, pronouns that are focused on the third-person point of view can’t stop themselves from talking about everything and everyone. Did you hear what she said? What was he doing? Why are they here? Well, why don’t we give them a taste of their own medicine and gab a little about the third-person pronouns that always seem to be interested in everyone else’s business.

What is third person?

The third person is the point of view used by a writer or speaker when talking about another person or people not being addressed directly. What does this mean? For example, the sentence Jeff has two sisters uses the third person. By using the name Jeff, this sentence implies that Jeff is neither the speaker (I have two sisters) nor is being directly spoken to (You have two sisters).

Third person is a commonly used point of view in both writing and everyday speech. In general, we use third person to describe events that involve people besides ourselves and whomever we are talking to.

Additionally, the third person is the only point of view that can refer to inanimate objects. When talking about things that are not alive, it usually only makes sense to use the third person.

What is a third-person pronoun?

A third-person pronoun is a pronoun that refers to someone besides the speaker or writer and whomever they are addressing.

The following sentences give examples of how we use third-person pronouns.

List of third-person pronouns

There are a lot of third-person pronouns. Some of the most commonly used third-person pronouns include:

 

  • she, her, hers, herself
  • he, him, his, himself
  • it, its, itself
  • they, them, theirs, themself, themselves

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

 

  • She and he are gendered personal pronouns used to refer to people and animals. Both of these words are singular and only used as subject pronouns. It is a pronoun used to refer to objects or animals of unknown sex. It is singular and can be used as either a subject or an object.
  • They is the plural third-person pronoun and is a subject pronoun. While the word they is usually plural, it is acceptable to use they as a singular word. As a singular pronoun, they is often used neutrally to refer to a person without specifying their gender. They is sometimes used as a singular pronoun by those who identify as nonbinary.
  • Her, him, and them are third-person object pronouns. Her and him are singular, and them can be either singular or plural.
  • Hers, his, its, and theirs are third-person possessive pronouns. These pronouns can be either singular or plural and can be used either as subjects or objects.
  • Herself, himself, itself, themself, and themselves are third-person reflexive and intensive pronouns. Besides themselves, all of these words are treated as singular.
  • Like they, the pronouns them, theirs, themself, and themselves can be used as singular words to refer to a person without specifying their gender. Each of these pronouns can also be used as a singular pronoun by those who identify as nonbinary.

Examples of third-person pronouns

The following sentences give examples of how we use third-person pronouns.

 

  • Lisa locked the door when she left for work.
  • That is my favorite book. I have read it several times.
  • The cats won’t stop meowing. They want to go outside.
  • My car is nice but Trent’s is better. His is brand new.
  • The chimpanzees built a treehouse by themselves.

Why and when to use third-person pronouns

 

To discuss non-living things

Because an inanimate object is incapable of talking about itself or addressing someone, it only makes sense to refer to non-living objects using third-person pronouns. Third-person pronouns are also used to refer to actions and abstract concepts, too. For example,

 

  • I bought a new guitar today. It is bigger than my old one.
  • The bowling ball smashed into the bowling pins, and they went flying.
  • We learned about the Renaissance. It was an interesting historical period.
  • The group rejected both of my ideas. They weren’t very good.

To state facts

Often, we use the third person to state general facts about the universe. In particular, third person can be used to describe scientific and historical facts that don’t involve people.

 

  • The ancient Egyptians built huge monuments. They had amazing building techniques.
  • Carbon is a very important element. It is needed for life.

To write a third-person narrative

The third person is often used in writing to tell a story from the point of view of an outside observer. A third-person narrator can describe a story without being part of it. By doing this, an author is able to describe events that the main character(s) cannot see or is not present for. An author may also use the third person if a story’s narrative jumps between multiple main characters. By using the third person, the author doesn’t limit the point of view to the perspective of a single character.

Make that third-person narrative soar with these tips on how to write a great hook.

Third vs. first and second-person pronouns

Third person is one of three points of view. The other two are first person and second person. The first person is used by a writer or speaker to refer to themselves or to a group they are part of. First-person pronouns include I, me, we, us, mine, ours, myself, and ourselves. The second person is used to refer to a person or people that the speaker or writer is addressing. Second-person pronouns include you, yours, and yourself.

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.)

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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 second or third person, perfect grammar has never been easier.

You can expand your understanding of second-person pronouns by reading about them here.

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