Understanding Person-Inflected Nouns

Nobody gets excited about grammar, but it’s really important for writing.

Today, we’re getting into person-inflected nouns, which may sound tricky but it’s not that hard. By the time you finish reading this post, you’ll totally understand person-inflected nouns are and why they’re important

In studying the inflection of nouns and pronouns, we have to consider gender, number, person, and case.

Gender

Gender is how we categorize people based on their sex. We show gender, whether it’s masculine, feminine, or neutral, by the noun’s meaning or by the pronouns we use with it (like ‘he’, ‘she’, or ‘they’).

Numbers

Numbers help us know if a word is about one or many things (like one dog, two dogs)

Person

Person tells us if the nouns refer to
1. the speaker,
2. the person being talked to, or
3. the person or thing being talked about.

You can usually figure out who it’s talking about from the context, pronouns, and verb choice.

Case

We’re talking about number inflected nouns in this blog.

In this blog, we’re chatting about person-inflected nouns, but click the links for more info on other inflection methods.

What is Person-Inflection?

Person-inflected nouns tell us who’s doing the action. In English, they come in three types: first person, second person, and third person.

First Person

These nouns refer to the person speaking or writing.

♦ I
♦ we
♦ me

When you say, ‘I love reading,’ ‘I’ is a first-person infected noun because it represents the speaker.

Second Person

Second-person nouns address the person being talked to (listener or reader).

♦ you
♦ your

Can you pass me the book?’ employs ‘you’ as a second-person noun.

Third Person

These nouns talk about someone or something other than the speaker or listener – the person or thing being talked about.

♦ he
♦ she
♦ it
♦ they
♦ Frankie
♦ Sanjay

When you say, ‘She enjoys writing,’ ‘she’ is a third-person inflected noun.

Why Do Person-Inflected Nouns Matter?

Knowing person-inflected nouns is crucial for clear communication.

They help in:

♦ Clarifying who is doing what in a sentence.
♦ Avoiding confusion in conversation or writing.
♦ Maintaining sentence coherence and grammatical correctness.

Using the right nouns that match the person makes your writing clear and easy to understand.

Exceptions to Person-Inflected Nouns

Person-inflected nouns are relatively straightforward. However, there are a few exceptions and nuances to consider:

Neutral Pronouns

While English typically uses ‘he’ ‘she’ for third-person singular pronouns, there is an ongoing discussion about gender-neutral pronouns like ‘they’ and ‘ them’ being used for individuals who do not identify as exclusively male or female.

Ambiguity in ‘You’

In English, ‘you’ can refer to both a single person and a group of people. For instance, ‘You should go to the library’ can mean one person or multiple people. Context often determines the intended meaning.

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Personification

In creative writing, authors may occasionally change the person of a noun for stylistic or dramatic effect. For example, ‘The wind whispered its secrets’ personifies the wind by giving it a human trait (whispering).

Exercises for Person-Inflected Nouns

Try identifying, if these sentences are first, second or third Person then hit the toggle for the answers.

1. Are you going to the party tonight?
2. Are you ready for the test?
3. Can I have some ice cream?
4. Can you pass me the salt, please?
5. Did you visit the museum?
6. Do you enjoy watching movies?
7. He plays the guitar like a pro.
8. I am learning to swim.
9. I love to read books.
10. She dances beautifully.
11. She won first place in the race.
12. The cat chased its tail.
13. They visited the zoo last week.
14. We are going to the park today.
15. We played soccer all weekend.

Click on the + button for the answers
  1. Are you going to the party tonight? (second person)
  2. Are you ready for the test? (second person)
  3. Can I have some ice cream? (first person)
  4. Can you pass me the salt, please? (second person)
  5. Did you visit the museum? (second person)
  6. Do you enjoy watching movies? (second person)
  7. He plays the guitar like a pro. (third person)
  8. I am learning to swim. (first person)
  9. I love to read books. (first person)
  10. She dances beautifully. (third person)
  11. She won first place in the race. (third person)
  12. The cat chased its tail. (third person)
  13. They visited the zoo last week. (third person)
  14. We are going to the park today. (first person)
  15. We played soccer all weekend. (first person)

10 Tips for Person-Inflected Nouns

1. Understand Context: Consider the genre and purpose of your writing. Academic writing typically uses third person, while creative writing may employ first or third person depending on the style.
2. Avoid Confusion: Make sure pronouns and antecedents match so it’s not confusing. For example, ‘He loves their work’ can be unclear.
3. Maintain Consistency: Stick to one person (first, second, or third) in a chapter for clarity.
4. Avoid Overuse: Avoid overusing I in first-person writing, or personal essays.

5. Create Empathy: In persuasive writing, addressing the audience with ‘you’ can help create a connection and convey empathy.

6. Involvement: Second person can engage readers directly, making them feel involved in the text.
7. Multiple Perspectives: Using ‘he’ ‘she’ ‘they’ or ‘them’ are great for individualizing characters and providing a clear viewpoint or maintaining gender neutrality.
8. Consistency: Be consistent with the chosen point of view throughout your story or essay.
9. Avoid Shifts: Avoid abrupt shifts between third-person limited (inside one character’s mind) and third-person omniscient (knowing all characters’ thoughts) in the same story.
10. Editing for Clarity: When you’re editing, make sure your use of person-inflected nouns helps the reader understand and connect with your content.

Last Words on Person-Inflected Nouns

Using person-inflected nouns correctly isn’t rocket science. Just remember:
♦ First person is for yourself.
♦ Second person addresses your audience.
♦Third person talks about others.
Avoid mixing them up, and your sentences will make perfect sense.

Happy writing!

Linda

 

Feature Image by StockSnap from Pixabay.

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