English vocabulary: Talking about people

Here are some useful words and phrases to describe someone's physical characteristics and personality.

Family similarities

He looks like… (his sister)
He's like … (his brother)
(For more details on be like and look like, see our English speaking page on how to use like, be like and look like.

take after = inherit a characteristic: "You take after your aunt. You're both tall and dark."

have got = inherit a characteristic: "You've got your father's nose / your mother's eyes." etc

Physical characteristics

Here are some useful ways to describe people in English.

Build

tall: "He's quite tall for his age."
short = opposite of tall
slim = not fat or thin: "She's very slim."
overweight (fat): "He's a little overweight."
thin: "He's too thin. He looks unhealthy."

muscular = with muscles: "He's quite muscular after all those weeks in the gym."
skinny = thin: "You need to eat more. You're looking skinny."
well-built = quite big as a person: "He's well-built, in his 40s."
fit = when you do lots of exercise: "She's fit and quite slim."

Some adjectives, like fat or thin, can be a little insulting. Instead, you can say "a little overweight" or "a bit thin".

Hair
You can describe someone's hair length, colour and shape:

have long / short / shoulder-length hair
have blond / brown / red / dark hair
have curly / wavy / straight hair

Example: "She has long, brown, curly hair."

Or, "Her hair is long, brown and curly."

Remember: you don't need "and" before the last adjective when it comes before the noun. When the adjectives come after the noun, use "and" before the last adjective.

Age

old: "He's quite old now."
young: "She's a young woman in her 20s."
middle-aged = from about 50 to 65.
an adult (20+)
a teenager (13-18)
a child (2 – 12)
a baby (0 – 2)
in his / her / our / their 20s / 30s / 40s / 50s / 60s etc

Examples:
"She's a middle-aged woman in her 60's."
"He liked animals when he was a child."

For more words and phrases to describe physical characteristics in English, see our page on Describing people.

Personality

Here are some common words and phrases to talk about personality. For a longer list, see our page on words that describe behaviour.

kind vs unkind = if you are nice and help people, or not

friendly vs unfriendly = if you are a person who says hello to someone, or not

happy vs unhappy / sad = if you smile, or if you look sad

clever / intelligent / bright = if you understand things easily

not very bright / not very clever = if you find things difficult to understand

hard-working vs lazy = if you work hard, or not

outgoing / sociable = if you like spending time with other people

quiet = if you don't like noise or lots of people

shy = if it's difficult for you to speak to people

serious = if you enjoy studying and don't like partying

reserved = if you don't make friends quickly

laid-back vs anxious = if you are relaxed about life, or not

funny = if you make other people laugh (funny can also mean "strange)

ambitious vs unambitious = if you want to do well in your career or make lots of money, or not

polite vs impolite / rude = if you have good manners (i.e say "Please" and "Thank you") or not

Be careful with these words!

sensible vs sensitive
A sensible person is careful, and doesn't do stupid things.
A sensitive person feels emotions quickly, and can get sad or upset easily.

sympathetic
A sympathetic person can understand you when you are upset or unhappy.

Describing People Exercise

Click the Start button below to begin the exercise. For each question, select the missing word from the choices. Then click the arrow on the right to go to the next question.
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