Native speakers can use correct grammar naturally, if a grammar rule is broken it will sound strange. BUT! Most of us forget the rules. I’ve made it my personal mission to explain Third-person singular grammar to my students in an easy and interesting way that is easy to understand.
The pronouns – he, she, it + any name, position, or relation that describes one single person or thing are third-person singular subjects. These subjects are followed by verbs with an S or ES added to the end. “He readS books.” “Wendy playS soccer.” “My cousin brushES her teeth.“
|Examples of third-person singular subjects|
|He studies English.|
|Ken studies English.|
|Ken’s boss studies English.|
|My sister studies English.|
This post is a combination of my experience as a lifelong native speaker and my grammar research as an ESL teacher.
Table of Contents
What is the Third-Person Singular?
Third is an ordinal number in English. Ordinal numbers show the position of something that is part of a group of things. (You will find a detailed study of how we use ordinal numbers in English at the bottom of this post.)
An easy way to think about Third-person English grammar
Use first-person grammar if you are talking about yourself.
- “I have a new computer.”
Use second-person grammar for the person or people you are talking to.
- “Are you okay? You look tired.”
We use third-person grammar for the people or things we are talking about. They are not usually part of the conversation.
- “Is Peter here? He is not at his desk.”
The examples you just read were all singular pronouns. (I, you, he)
First, Second, and Third-person pronouns
|Singular (one)||Plural (more than one)|
|Second-person pronouns||You||You (more than 1)|
|Third-person pronouns||He, She, It||They|
First-person uses the pronouns
Second-person uses the pronoun
You (Remember the pronoun you can refer to one person or more than one person)
Third-person uses the pronouns
Third-person singular does not include plural subjects
You can see that singular means one. We use the adjective singular to describe nouns that refer to only one thing.
Person is a singular noun
Dog is a singular noun
Countable nouns have a plural form.
People is a plural noun
Dogs is a plural noun
As you saw in the chart above I, we, you, he, she, it, and they are pronouns. Some are used to talk about one thing, and some are used to talk about more than one thing.
1st, 2nd, and 3rd person singular are talking about only 1 person or thing, so it doesn’t include the plural pronouns WE, THEY, or the plural form of YOU.
Third-person singular examples
Third-person singular is the pronouns – he, she, it + any name, position, or relation that describes one single person or thing
He studies English
Ken studies English.
Ken’s boss studies English.
My sister studies English.
She plays the piano.
Kim plays the piano.
My classmate plays the piano.
His uncle plays the piano.
These subjects are all talking about a single person, remember that the third person talks about someone who is usually not part of the conversation.
The grammar is called 3rd person singular, but it is not only used with people. It can also be used with other singular things like animals or objects.
Craig’s phone works underwater.
My dog likes to play catch.
It rains a lot in April.
*We use the third-person singular pronoun it when we talk about the weather.
- “It‘s sunny today.”
As I mentioned above Third-person singular English grammar is especially important for using verbs correctly. You can read my Simple present tense verbs at this link.
Third-person singular verbs – Spelling rules
Third-person singular subjects will add S or ES to the end of the verb describing their action. Using S or ES depends on the spelling of the verb. Here is an easy guide. We need to add ES to the following verbs:
Verbs ending with ss
- miss – misses – “Don’t pass to Kyle, he misses every time!”
- kiss – kisses – “My Mom kisses my baby brother every night before he goes to sleep.”
Verbs ending with sh or ch
- brush – brushes – “Jenny brushes her teeth for 20 minutes every night before bed.”
- match – matches – “This tie is perfect. It matches my shirt.”
Verbs ending with X
- fix – fixes – “Allen fixes the computers in his office.”
- mix –mixes – “Joan never mixes business with pleasure.”
Verbs ending with o
- do – does – A: “My friend always draws funny pictures in his notebook.”
B: “My brother does that too.”
- go – goes – “My Mom kisses my baby brother every night before he goes to sleep.”
Verbs ending with Y that comes after a consonant
(The y changes to i before adding es)
- fly – flies – “A bat flies through the night sky.”
- try – tries – “Howard is not the best player on the team, but he tries hard.”
*If a verb ends with the letter Y that comes after a vowel (A, E, I, O, U) we just need to add the letter S.
- “Leonard plays baseball.”
- “My friend at work always buys his lunch.”
Third-person grammar question
An English student once asked me:
- Our teacher teach or teaches us English?
It’s a good question and I can see why it’s confusing. The possessive pronoun “our” is first-person plural, but it’s being used to describe only one single teacher. The teacher who teaches us English. Because “teacher” is the subject of the sentence it will be followed by a verb using third-person singular grammar.
- “Our teacher teaches us English.”
I want to end this post with some simple FIRST, SECOND, and THIRD-person examples to help you understand this grammar. These examples will use both singular and plural versions.
Other pronoun examples
I have a pick-up truck.
We are hungry after rugby practice.
You can borrow my truck if you want.
You must be hungry after Rugby practice. (Talking to more than one person.)
He eats the same breakfast every day. Oatmeal and orange juice.
They look hungry. I’d better start the barbeque now.
Other first, second, and third-person plural examples
My friends and I like to play video games online. [First person plural]
You and your brother go to the same school as my cousin. [Second person plural]
Keith and his wife are coming over for dinner tonight. [Third person plural]
Third-Person Singular QUIZ
Printable PDF Quiz worksheet – Great for teachers and offline practice.
Ordinal number list
Most ordinal numbers are just regular numbers with the letters TH added to the end. Seventh, fifteenth. Twenty-fourth, etc.
With a few exceptions, five becomes fifth, and the number nine drops the e to become ninth.
One, two, and three become the ordinal numbers 1st (first), 2nd (second), and 3rd (third).
You have probably heard these kinds of numbers before.
Finishing positions in a race or contest use these numbers.
The floors of a building also use these numbers.
And of course, we use them with the days of the month.
Below is a list of cardinal and ordinal numbers. (Cardinal numbers are regular numbers that we use for counting.)
Cardinal [left column] Ordinal [right column]