First-Person Pronouns

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

first-person pronouns
Examples of first-person pronouns in a song composed by George Harrison and performed by the Beatles on the album Let It Be (1970). (Keystone/Getty Images)

In English grammar, first-person pronouns are pronouns that refer to the speaker or writer (singular) or to a group that includes the speaker or writer (plural).

The Personal Pronouns in English

In contemporary standard English, these are the first-person pronouns:

In addition, my and our are the singular and plural first-person possessive determiners.

First-Person Pronouns in Fiction

Authors of novels use the first-person perspective to tell a story from the protagonist's point of view. The first-person pronouns are listed in italic type in the examples below for ease of reading.

Claire Keegan

"He shines the light along the strand to find our footprints and follow them back, but the only prints he can find are mine. 'You must have carried me there,' he says.
"I laugh at the thought of my carrying him, at the impossibility, then realize that it was a joke, and I got it.

"When the moon comes out again, he turns the lamp off and we easily find the path we took through the dunes."
("Foster." The Best American Short Stories 2011, ed. by Geraldine Brooks. Houghton Mifflin, 2011)

Chinua Achebe

"Our people have a saying 'Ours is ours, but mine is mine.' Every town and village struggles at this momentous epoch in our political evolution to possess that of which it can say: 'This is mine.' We are happy today that we have such an invaluable possession in the person of our illustrious son and guest of honor."
(No Longer at Ease. Heinemann, 1960)

D.H. Lawrence

"[I]nside my soul I don't conform: can't conform. They would all like to kill the non-conforming me. Which is me myself."
(The Boy in the Bush, 1924)

Mordecai Richler

"I took her back to my room, where we passed a celibate night, Clara sleeping fitfully in my arms. In the morning she asked me to be a sweetheart and fetch her canvases and drawings and notebooks and suitcases from Le Grand Hôtel Excelsior."
(Barney's Version. Chatto & Windus, 1997)

First Person Pronouns in Psychology and Development

Just as in fiction, nonfiction authors, like psychiatrist M. Scott Peck, rely heavily on the first person to connect with their readers, and Yyriko Oshima-Takane explains how the concept of first person emerges at a very young age in humans.

M. Scott Peck

"It is one thing to believe in a nice old God who will take good care of us from a lofty position of power which we ourselves could never begin to attain."
(The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth. Simon & Schuster, 1978)

Yuriko Oshima-Takane

"Parent report data in a [Japanese] study by [M.] Seki [1992] indicated that 96% of the children between 18 and 23 months called themselves by their own names but none of them used first person pronouns to designate themselves.
"Since many English-speaking children begin using personal pronouns at around 20 months, the data from Japanese children together with my English data suggest that children know their own name as well as others' names before they begin to use any personal pronouns and may use their knowledge about proper names to identify the pronoun forms in utterances."
("The Learning of First and Second Person Pronouns in English." Language, Logic, and Concepts, ed. by Ray Jackendoff, Paul Bloom, and Karen Wynn. MIT Press, 2002)

Personal Pronouns in Writing and Grammar

Linguists, other academicians, and authors offer various interpretations of first-person pronouns ranging from when to use—and not use—them, as well as their history in the English language.

Eli Hinkel

"In written text, the uses of first-person pronouns usually mark personal narratives and/or examples that are often considered inappropriate in academic writing. Many researchers of academic discourse and prose have noted the highly depersonalized and objective character of academic prose that requires 'author evacuation' (Johns, 1997, p. 57)."
(eaching Academic ESL Writing: Practical Techniques in Vocabulary and Grammar. Lawrence Erlbaum, 2004)

Mark L. Mitchell, Janina M. Jolley, and Robert P. O'Shea

"In your papers, the focus is on the ideas—not on you. Consequently, you should limit your use of first person pronouns such as 'I.' In formal papers, you are not to speak directly to the reader, so you should not use 'you' or any other second person pronouns."
(Writing for Psychology, 3rd ed. Wadsworth, 2010)

William Safire

I will work hard to make sure that the transition from myself to the next President is a good one.
That was an unstylish, though not incorrect, use of 'myself'; the better word is 'me.' Use 'myself' as an intensifier (I myself prefer 'me'), as a reflexive ('I misspoke myself,' as press secretaries say), but not as a cutesy turning away from the harsh 'me.'"
(The New York Times Magazine, Feb. 1, 1981)

C.M. Millward

"In OE, the form min . . . had been used both adjectivally and pronominally. In ME, my (or mi) began to appear as the adjective form used before a word beginning with a consonant, while min was used before words beginning with a vowel and as the absolute (or pronominal) form. In EMnE [Early Modern English], my generalized as the adjective form in all environments, and mine became reserved for pronominal functions, the present distribution of the two."
(A Biography of the English Language, 2nd ed. Harcourt Brace, 1996)

Singular Personal Pronouns

Writers of prose, poets, and lyricists have penned sparkling examples of singular personal pronouns, while the editors of a noted dictionary have explained their use.

Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage

". . . with Dorothy Thompson and myself among the speakers — Alexander Woolcott, letter, 11 Nov. 1940
There are also two captions for Hokinson, one by myself and one by my secretary — James Thurber, letter, 20 Aug. 1948
Indeed I hope that you will have time, amongst your numerous engagements, to have a meal with my wife and myself — T.S. Eliot, letter, 7 May 1957 . . .
The evidence should make it plain that the practice of substituting myself or other reflexive pronouns for ordinary personal pronouns is not new . . . and is not rare. It is true that many of the examples are from speech and personal letters, suggesting familiarity and informality. But the practice is by no means limited to informal contexts. Only the use of myself as sole subject of a sentence seems to be restricted . . .."
(Merriam-Webster, 1994)

Christina Georgina Rossetti

"I plucked pink blossoms from mine apple-tree
And wore them all that evening in my hair."
("An Apple Gathering," 1863)

Nancy Campbell

"I saw the archangels in my apple-tree last night"
("The Apple-Tree," 1917)

Julia Ward Howe

"Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."
("The Battle Hymn of the Republic," 1862)

Penn Jillette

"Doctor, my eyes have seen the pain of a lying diamond."
(Sock. St. Martin's Press, 2004)

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Nordquist, Richard. "First-Person Pronouns." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Nordquist, Richard. (2023, April 5). First-Person Pronouns. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "First-Person Pronouns." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 6, 2023).