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Person

Grammar Glossary for Spanish Students

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cubrir el rostro

Tres personas. (Three persons.)

Photo by Rocky Lubbers used under terms of Creative Commons license.

Definition: A grammatical category based on the relationship between the speaker and the listener. In both Spanish and English, pronouns and verb forms can vary depending on which person is being used.

  • A sentence, verb, noun or pronoun in the first person refers to the speaker or writer. (In the plural form, the reference is to a group that includes the speaker.)
  • A sentence or part of speech in the second person refers to the person or persons being spoken to.
  • A sentence or part of speech in the third person refers to someone or something other than the speaker or person being addressed.

There are circumstances in both languages where it is possible to use a third-person verb form when speaking in the second person, commonly in Spanish, rarely in English. In English, an example would be "Is your honor pleased?," where the third-person "is" is used to refer to the person being addressed. In Spanish, the pronouns usted and ustedes are the second-person formal pronouns, meaning "you." They both take third-person verbs. These two pronouns are historically based on a phrase similar in usage to "your mercy," or vuestra merced.

Also known as: Persona in Spanish. Sequentially the terms in Spanish are primera persona, segunda persona and tercera persona (first, second and third persons).

Examples: These sentences (the Spanish and English examples are equivalent) are in the first person:

  • I am happy. Estoy feliz.
  • We are happy. Estamos felices.

These sentences are in the second person:

  • You (singular) are happy. Estás feliz.
  • You (plural) are happy. Estáis felices.

These sentences are in the third person:

  • She is happy. Está feliz.
  • They are happy. Están felices.

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