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Grammatical person and pronouns

There's this idea in grammar called grammatical person that helps describe who's being talked about in a sentence. David, KA's Grammar Fellow, explains.

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Video transcript

- [Voiceover] Serious question, grammarians. What's the difference between me and you? Well, in order to get, I mean I don't mean that, you know, in a snarky way, I mean that in like a conceptual way. What's the difference, in terms of these two pronouns, what separates them? Well, one's about me and one's about you, but that seems kind of like a pretty easy distinction that's right there on the face of it, right. English, like other languages, has this thing that grammarians call person. Obviously, we all know what a person is, it's a human being, but person as a grammatical concept is a way of distinguishing between me, you and everybody else. In fact, we have special terms for this. So, any group containing me is the first person. Any group containing you is the second person, and everybody else falls into the third person. So, whenever I talk about, you know, third person singular, or first person plural, all I'm really doing is going back to these columns of, am I involved, are you involved, or is everybody else involved? Right, so both me and us or I and we are first person pronouns, because they're about me or a group that contains me. Likewise, you is the second person. That's kind of it, both singular and plural. Everybody else, that's he, she, they, them, everybody, it, nothing, everything that is neither me nor you falls into the everybody else third person category. So, let's say you were giving someone advice in a kind of sideways way, like, one ought not to place one's hands on a hot stove. Alright, the temptation might be, in some cases, you might forget what pronoun you started out with. One is a third person pronoun and the temptation might sometimes be, you know, you forget about it, sounds like you're saying, a piece of advice, one ought not to place your hands on a hot stove. Well, you know, I mean this is still not a good idea to put your hands on a hot stove, but you have to remember which, what you're trying to connect here. This is a third person pronoun and this is a second person pronoun, and the two of them do not match up, they do not, as we say in grammar, agree, sad face. So, what you need to take care to do is to make sure that if you're, if you start off talking about one, even if you're being kind of silly and pompous, you've got to stick with one. If you start out talking about you, you got to stick with you, or I guess I could have changed this back to one but I wanted to pop with the pink. Because if you don't do this, then you run the risk of being confusing and unclear. So, you have to make sure that if you start off using one grammatical person, you have to maintain use of that grammatical person for as long as you're talking about the same notion, the same idea, the same person. I used to take harmony singing classes at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago and I had this instructor who said that the best way to sing harmony was to remember to stay in your lane and I think that's a good way to conceive how to think about grammatical person is if you start in one lane, don't cross over by the end of the sentence. Begin, begin your sentence in the same lane as you started. You can learn anything, David out.