Lesson Transcript

Hi, everybody. My name is Alisha. In this lesson, I'm going to talk about first, second, and third-person storytelling. This is something that we use in English to tell stories. I'm going to talk about the three different types of storytelling that we use, what they mean, and a few examples of when and how to use them. Let's get started.
Okay. As I said, there are three ways of telling stories in English. We call these perspectives or point of view. This means that we use these three ways to understand who the narrator in the story is, or we use these to understand how the story should be understood. I'm going to explain the three ways and a lot of example sentences that I hope can help you understand when and how to use these. These three perspectives or these three points of view are called first-person, second-person, and third-person. I'm going to start with first-person.
First-person is maybe the easiest to understand because the subject of a lot of these sentences are "I, I, I." In first-person stories, the person telling the story is the main character. This is quite similar to your everyday life. In your life, you are the main character really. You understand your life through your experiences. In a first-person story, we, as we're reading a book or as we're watching a movie or something, we understand the story through the narrator's experience. The narrator -- narrator means the person telling the story, if you're reading a book. But narrator is like the main character in a first-person story; the person explaining it, the person having the experiences.
We'll see lots of "I, I, I" in first-person stories. Some examples here. "I walked up the road." Very simple sentence. Here, we see "I." It's my experience as the narrator. "I walked up the road. I'm telling you this." Another one. "When I got to work in the morning, I spoke with my coworker." Here again, if we are reading this story, we imagine we are the narrator. When we get to work, we speak with the coworkers who are there. This is all my experience here. Another one. "The guy at the coffee shop gave me a discount on my latte." Here again, it's one person's experience of visiting a coffee shop. We're seeing it as though we are that person. One more. "I saw Sara speaking to John earlier." I saw it. Who saw this happen? I saw it. In first-person story, the narrator's experience is extremely important. We're focusing on this one person's experience of their world. This is called first-person storytelling, first-person point of view.
Okay. Let's take a look at a couple of different ways of telling stories. The next one is probably the least common way of telling a story. It's called second-person. In second-person storytelling, the narrator is outside the listener, or is outside the reader. In second-person stories, the narrator explains the story to the listener or to the reader and the listener or reader imagines the story is happening to them. The story is something that's not real, but we have to imagine the story as being real, or we imagine ourselves in the story in this case. First-person is one narrator, telling their experience, telling a story. In second-person, we are imagining something happening to us, like our actual self, like me really and you really.
This is something that's used in children's adventure stories or maybe salespeople try to use this to get you to imagine something in your life. We'll look at some examples here. First one. "You walk into work and everyone is gone. What do you do?" Here, you can already see this is very different from first-person. We used "I, I, I, me, my." These key words that show I am experiencing, I am the narrator. Here, however, "you" is the subject. "You walk into work. Everyone is gone. What do you do?" This is making us imagine. Okay. If I had this experience, what would I do? But these are very direct statements and very direct questions that are supposed to make the listener or the reader imagine the situation happening to them.
Another example. Let's imagine a salesperson is talking to us. "Imagine you come home at the end of the day and can enjoy music as loud as you want." Maybe this is a person trying to sell like a stereo or a sound system or speakers or something. Here, they're using second-person. "You come home at the end of the day." "Imagine you come home at the end of the day and you can enjoy music as loud as you want." Imagining yourself. Imagine yourself as the focus here. Imagine something nice happening to you. This can be used by salespeople.
Okay. One more example. Maybe this is like an adventure story for kids, or maybe like a fantasy or sci-fi story. "You see a mirror in front of you. You look in the mirror and see your worst enemy." This is maybe like a kid story or some kind of adventure story. That's very popular, actually, among young kids. Children can read the story and choose what to do next in this style book, but we see second-person is used here. "You see a mirror in front of you." Imagine a mirror in front of you. "You look in the mirror and you see your worst enemy." Kind of a fantastic story, I suppose. But here, we're seeing a second-person be used. Again, these very direct statements are used to make the imagination I think stronger, to make your powers of imagination stronger. We use "you" to make the other person feel like they are experiencing the story directly themselves.
Okay. Let's continue on to the last type, third-person storytelling, different from first and second. In third-person storytelling, the narrator is outside everyone in the story, like second-person. The narrator is outside not participating in the story. But sometimes the narrator knows things that the characters in the story do not. The narrator, in a lot of stories that are told in third-person, the narrator sees many different characters at different places in different points in time. The narrator knows everything in the story, but the characters themselves don't know everything. If you've seen like big epic movies like maybe Lord of the Rings or Star Wars or something like that, maybe you know about a third-person story. In that case, you the viewer, you understand everything happening in the story, but the characters don't know all the information. Third-person stories are like that. In third-person stories, you don't see an "I" from the narrator. In first-person stories, it's my experience, my narration. This is my life. However, in third-person stories, there's no "I" in those cases.
Let's take a look at a couple of maybe helpful examples. Here, I have, "Sara and John spoke in the morning." This is similar. In first-person, I said, "I saw Sara speaking to John earlier." In this example, I used "I" to show first-person. This is a first-person experience of Sara speaking to John. In this case though, Sara and John spoke in the morning. It's just a simple statement. I'm not reporting. The narrator is not reporting. I saw or I heard. It's just a simple statement. "Sara and John spoke in the morning." There's no opinion. There's no experience there, just a fact.
Here, however, maybe these next two examples are what I described here, where the narrator knows something that the people in the story don't know. Here, "The marketing team was hard at work in the office. Meanwhile, across the city, the event team was preparing for the conference." "Meanwhile" means at the same time, at the same time, across the city. Here, "The marketing team is at the office working. At the same time, across the city, the event team was preparing for the conference." In this situation, there are two groups of people that are independent. The narrator, the person telling the story knows what both groups are doing at that exact time. However, these two groups maybe don't know exactly what the other group is doing. This is one example of that all-knowing kind of narrator.
Let's look at another example of this. "The President met with the Prime Minister in the afternoon. On the other side of the world, the UN had a meeting." Again, we see two groups here. In one group is the President and the Prime Minister. They had a meeting in the afternoon. "On the other side of the world," completely independently, "the UN had a meeting." Again, there are two groups. The narrator knows everything here, but maybe the people in these groups don't know.
These are examples of third-person storytelling. You can see something like this in news reports as well sometimes. But in general, first-person and third-person are probably the most common ways to tell stories or to explain stories, explaining things that happened. For our everyday life, we tend to use first-person a lot because we understand our lives through our experiences. When we're reporting on information, third-person is also quite common, too. You will sometimes hear second-person as well for like situations you need to imagine, I think.
Okay. But that's a quick introduction to first-person, second-person, and third-person storytelling. I hope that that was helpful for you. If you have any questions or comments or if you want to try to write a story, please feel free to do so in the comment section of this video. Thanks very much for watching this lesson and I'll see you again soon. Bye.