ekolis wrote:We have first person (I see), second person (you see), and third person (he sees) - but what you do you call "one sees"? Fourth person?
One sees is third person. He/she/it. One is no different. It is not the pronoun that determines person number, (at least not in English,) it's position of the subject relative to speaker or voice in a sentence, clause or phrase.
First person: speaker is the group or element of the group, as "I see," or "we see". Singular or plural, both are first person.
Second person: speaker is addressing listener. "You see," the you can be singular or plural.
In hybrid cases, of for example "you and I" in English, it's proper to omit the second person for determining case of the pronoun. "You and I see" (because it's "I see") instead of "You and me see" (that would result in "me see," and "me" is a direct or indirect object, NOT a subject form) nor would it be right to use "You and I sees" as "sees" implies the third person.
In English, as well as, I think many if not most other modern languages, (don't get mad if you know one that doesn't, I wrote "most", not "all") any person noun, pro, proper, or common, can fall in conversation or writing into one of three categories: the one or ones speaking, the one or ones being spoken to, and the third, much broader category, the one or ones being spoken OF, or about. These, third persons, are neither speaking nor being addressed. The English pronouns 'he,' 'she,' 'it,' and 'they' are the principal constituents of this group. He sees, she sees, it sees, they see, etc. By contrast, his, her, hers, them, theirs, are not subject forms of the pronouns, they are objects, ordinary and possessive.
For example: It (third person subject) is (transitive verb of equivalence or state of being) hers (of, pertaining to, or belonging to her, a female person in the third person possessive).
Note how no word in the sentence indicates who is speaking or being spoken to. To do this, you'd have to add symbols representing them, (or one would have to add... more on this in a moment).
So our sentence becomes: "I (first person singular) tell (transitive verb denoting informational conveyance) you, (second person of unspecified number) it (third person subject) is (transitive verb of equivalence or state of being) hers (of, pertaining to, or belonging to her, a female person in the third person possessive). Note how doing this does not change the essential meaning of the sentence, only serves to add emphasis. Whatever "it" is, it is still being alleged to belong to "her", whomever she is, both before and after the addition of the "I tell you". This also doesn't change if you change the persons, "He told them, it is hers," or even "It told me, it is hers." Such as "it" was marked with her initials, as a piece of pottery. "I saw her initials, her mark, on the bottom. It told me, it is hers." And so on and so forth.
Now as for "one", the word is used in the place of "you," in a construction such as "if one could see it" that is pretty strictly a second person. However, it is not specific to the person listening, and implies that the person listening, or someone else perhaps, is taken as the subject. I have also heard it used in the first person, though this is much rarer. It serves to depersonalize the pronoun. It is the linguistic equivalent of using an entire outstretched hand to indicate something visually, rather than a single finger, it is principally a matter of politeness. A servant in a formal situation might say, "May one inquire after the lady's relatives?" however, this is rare nowadays, I think. "It is important that one does not close one's zipper while one's member lies directly in its path," is more polite, despite meaning the same thing, as the expression "Don't zip up with it in the way," (with an implied "you", second person subject.)
The difference I suppose, is that "you" implicitly includes the listener, as either the entire subject, or a member of a subject group. "One," by contrast, may or may not include the listener. It's less finger-pointy. Consider the earlier expression "To do this, you'd have to add symbols representing them." You might feel this is almost a command, and wonder "who the devil are you to imply what I
must do?" Whereas "To do this, one would have to add symbols representing them." is much less likely to give offense. I could be talking about ANYONE, not necessarily YOU. Note the difference, going back to the question, between "one sees" and "one see". Since one is inherently singular, one sees is surely third person singular. "One see" would therefore be a subject/verb number disagreement, or "one" is forced into the stead of you, as the uncommon, polite form. It is never used this way, because such a construction would be, for instance, in the place of "you" in "You see?" (Short for "Do you see" or "Don't you see"?) Since the question is being asked of a specific person (the listener,) it makes no sense to try to sidestep the finger-pointing, because in asking "do you see?" I am not asking if some generic, hypothetical person sees, I am asking if THE LISTENER, YOU
One thinks one can see, that in this case, "I
can see," is definitely more appropriate, and doesn't sound awkward or excessively forward.H.S.