What is second person point of view? I know first and third person point of view. Is there a second?

16 Answers

billdelaney's profile pic

William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

There must be a reason why the second-person point of view is so rarely used in fiction. It must have something to do with the fact that the author doesn't really know you and therefore can't know how much you will accept. Otherwise, it would be a great way to tell a story, because the reader identifies with one of the characters if the story is written in the first person or the third person and theoretically should identify with the second person even more. It occurs to me that the reader wants a certain distance from the character as well as a certain closeness. If Tarzan has to wrestle a 500-pound gorilla I am rooting for Tarzan, but I don't want to fight that 500-pound gorilla myself. I believe this is an example of what is called "aesthetic distance." For example, if we are to appreciate a statue as a work of art we must be aware that it not a real person but a statue. If it were to look exactly like a real person we would not appreciate it as a work of art. That seems to be the case with mannequins in stores if they are really lifelike. 

I recently came across a good example of second-person narration in O. Henry's short story "The Green Door." Only the first paragraphs use the second person and then O. Henry reverts to third-person omniscient. Here is a sample from the story:

SUPPOSE YOU SHOULD be walking down Broadway after dinner, with ten minutes allotted to the consummationof your cigar while you are choosing between a diverting tragedy and something serious in the way of vaudeville. Suddenly a hand is laid upon your arm. You turn to look into the thrilling eyes of a beautiful woman, wonderful in diamonds and Russian sablesShe thrusts hurriedly into your hand an extremely hot buttered roll, flashes out a tiny pair of scissors, snips off the second button of your overcoat, meaningly ejaculates the one word, “parallelogram!” and swiftly flies down a cross street,looking back fearfully over her shoulder.

The whole text of "The Green Door" is accessible on eNotes via "The Best of O. Henry." 

jamie-wheeler's profile pic

Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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A second person point of view is a story that is told from the perspective of "you." It is much less common than first and third. Do you remember children's books like the "Animorphs" series or the "Choose Your Own Adventure" tales? They went something like this: "You turn and standing there before you is a wolf. You have to decide to approach it or run away."

Here's a handy key for you:

First person: I
Second person : You
Thrid Person: He, She, They

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locksnbagels | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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Here's another example of 2nd person POV, taken straight from a student's persuasive essay...which was, of course, supposed to be written in 3rd person:

You might ask yourself, "Is there reputable research on the existence of extra-terrestrial life?" You could research it yourself, check out a few websites, or you could just read this essay...

User Comments

Wiggin42's profile pic

Wiggin42 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) Valedictorian

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First person is I. Second person is you. Third person is he/she/they. An example of second person narrative: 

You walk down the street and noticed something shiny on the pavement. You bend over and reach down to pick it up. Lucky for you, its a nice shiny quarter. You decide to walk down to the candy store and buy your favorite chocolate. 

Choose your own adventure novels are written like this. 

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jess1999 | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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First person point of view uses words such as "I". Third person point of view uses words such as "he" "she". Second person point of view though, uses "you"

For example ,

"You ran around the whole entire house looking for your friends "


1st = I

2nd = you

3rd = he/she

kevin0001's profile pic

kevin0001 | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) Salutatorian

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The second point of view is a writing style where the story gets to be decided by you. Most of the writing has the word you in it. It's sort of like a role playing story except sometimes, the story is decided for you. Other times, you can choose how the story goes. A first person point of view would be : " I had to walk home by myself today. " . A second person point of view would be : " You approach a wolf, and as you get closer, the wolf starts to show it's teeth. ".

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crystaltu001 | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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The second point of view exists but is not used very often. The first point of view is used in your own point of view, like : I put my hand on the door knob and slowly turned it to open the door to my closet. The second point of view writes the story as if it were narrating your life, talking to you. For example : You slapped him for loving you too much. 

maria-vivanco's profile pic

maria-vivanco | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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Second point of view is less common than first and third point of view when diccuasing booIs. Second point of view means that the story is from a person addressing the characters as "You". So the dialogue is mostly using "you" and doesn't provide insight narration as in "I" 

a helpful thing to remember. Is:

first person: i

second: you

third: he she they 

winger's profile pic

winger | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

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Instructions are also generally written in second person with an implied "you".


First put the toothpaste on the toothbrush.  Then put the toothbrush in your mouth and move it up-and-down and side-to-side, making sure that you thoroughly clean all of your teeth (or tooth, if you're from Tennessee).

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drubin | College Teacher | eNotes Newbie

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Second-person point of view is a variant of dramatic monologue, in which the speaker addresses a character (usually but not necessarily major), from whose perspective the  plot is narrated and commented upon, with greater or lesser sympathy and insight into circumstances, moral dispositions, passions, and thought. Second-person point of view is rare because difficult to achieve without artificiality. An entire radio series, The Whistler (CBS 1942-55; currently available on XM and Sirius) used this device, for coarse ironic effect.

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parama9000 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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First person:      I am talking to you.

Second person:  You were listening.

Third person:     He/she/they felt you were not listening.

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zumba96 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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If you are using second person point of view it would include "you" as if you are talkingin a "you" point of view, "I" is first person, "he/she" is third person

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nephron | Student | (Level 1) eNoter

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you are a middle school teacher who is asking this


A second grader knows this come on