How To Describe a Person in English: 154 Ways to Talk About People

How would you describe yourself?

If that seems like a difficult question to answer, it’s okay!

Even native speakers sometimes find it hard to talk about themselves in English.

Whether you’re describing yourself or someone else, knowing what some of these different ways are can be a big help.

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Why Describe Someone?

We describe people all the time. For example, you might tell your friends what your boss is like. You might tell your sister what that cute guy you saw looks like.

Even outside of everyday conversations, it’s very useful to know how to describe people. Descriptions are used a lot in books, in articles and in other kinds of communication in English. Reading or hearing a description of someone can give you a better idea of what they look like or act like.

Descriptions are also useful in the business world, often crucial to conversations and presentations at work.

What Are the Different Ways to Describe People?

Let’s say you want to describe a friend, a family member or a boss. You will probably use a few kinds of information.

  • Appearance is what someone looks like on the outside.
  • Mannerisms are the ways that someone acts or behaves.
  • Character traits are the little things that make someone who they are. In other words, they make up someone’s personality.
  • Emotions are what someone feels at a certain time.

In this post, we’ll go over useful vocabulary for describing all of these. You will see this vocabulary used a lot in conversations and online.

But first…

The Importance of Being Polite

Some ways of describing people are polite and respectful.

Take the compliments in this video, for example. A native English speaker drives around town saying nice things to people about the way that they look!

If you don’t understand any descriptors or other words in that video, don’t worry—it’s available on FluentU.

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Of course, other ways to describe people can be considered rude.

For example, saying someone is full-bodied or curvy is nicer than saying that they are fat. However, if you have to think of a nicer way to say something, maybe it’s better not to say it at all.

Use judgment and common sense. Think about how you would feel if you heard someone using the same words to describe you.

How to Describe People in English: 4 Ways

1. Describing someone’s appearance

To describe someone’s appearance, you will often use adjectives. An adjective is a kind of word that describes a noun (a person, place or thing).

Here are some words and phrases you can use to describe a person’s appearance.

Some of them are synonyms, or words that mean almost or exactly the same thing. Knowing more than one way of saying something is very helpful when describing people.

WeightHeight
well-built tall
full-bodied short
curvy petite
heavy pint-sized
overweight
thin
slim
skinny

Hair TextureHair ColorHair LengthFacial Hair
straight blonde short-haired has a beard
wavy dark-haired long-haired has a moustache
curly red-haired bald (no hair) has a goatee
frizzy

Overall AppearanceStyle of Dress
good-looking well-dressed
attractive stylish
beautiful trendy
pretty unfashionable
gorgeous frumpy
handsome
plain-looking
not much to look at

2. Describing someone’s mannerisms

Someone’s mannerisms are the way they act or speak. When you speak, do you move your arms a lot? Do you touch your hair or bite your lip? All these things are mannerisms.

Since mannerisms are usually actions, they are often described by phrases with verbs (action words). You can add the person’s name or a pronoun before it (he, she, they…). For example, “He taps his fingers.” 

Here are some common mannerisms you might use to describe people.

When NervousWhen SarcasticWhen AnnoyedWhen Thinking
taps
their fingers
rolls
their eyes
sighs a lot tilts their head
to the side
cracks
their knuckles
folds
their arms
clenches
their hands
sticks out
their tongue
bites
their fingernails
rubs the back
of their neck
twirls their hair
around their finger
chews the tips
of their pencils

3. Describing someone’s character

A person’s character is their personality, who they are on the inside. When you talk about someone, you might mention what they are like as a person.

Here are some ways to do that.

Friendly Mean Respectful Disrespectful
nice unpleasant polite rude
kind nasty well-mannered impolite
pleasant vicious considerate vulgar
warm cruel thoughtful obscene

Smart Not Smart Gets Upset Easily Relaxed
clever dense hot-headed calm
intelligent dumb hot-tempered laid-back
sharp stupid moody easy-going
wise not too bright temperamental carefree

Extroverted Introverted Funny Doesn't Laugh a Lot
outgoing quiet hilarious serious
sociable soft-spoken witty reserved
approachable shy silly boring

Tries Big Things Arrogant Modest
ambitious conceited humble
determined stuck up unpretentious
goal-oriented self-absorbed unassuming
resourceful

4. Describing someone’s feelings

People’s feelings are always changing. You can be happy one moment, and then hear some bad news and become sad.

You always know how you feel, but it isn’t always easy to tell how someone else is feeling. You can look at how someone is speaking or even how they’re sitting to understand how they feel. When you’re not sure how someone feels, you can say they might be feeling something. You can also say someone looks like they’re feeling a certain way. These phrases show that you might be wrong.

For example, you can say, “I’m mad” when you’re talking about yourself. But you might say “He looks mad,” when you’re talking about another person. This makes sense if this person is yelling into his phone with his face red and his fists clenched (all signs that someone is mad!).

You can use these words to talk about how someone is feeling, how they were feeling before or how they might feel in the future.

Happy Sad Nervous Relaxed
elated unhappy anxious calm
exuberant down stressed serene
cheerful melancholy agitated tranquil
delighted miserable
ecstatic out of sorts

Tired Well-rested Mad Bored
exhausted energetic angry disinterested
worn out refreshed furious inattentive
fatigued invigorated fed up

 

If you’re ever stuck trying to think of a different way to say a word, look it up in a thesaurus like this one!

A thesaurus lists both synonyms and antonyms (words that have an opposite meaning). It’s a great way to discover new words and more ways of describing people.

Another especially good thesaurus resource is Visual Thesaurus, which is like a thesaurus that’s also a map. It shows you the connections between related words. This is great for helping you choose the very best adjective to describe someone.

So, how would you describe yourself?

And One More Thing...

If you like learning English through movies and online media, you should also check out FluentU. FluentU lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:

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If you want to watch it, the FluentU app has probably got it.

The FluentU app and website makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition, and useful examples.

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FluentU lets you learn engaging content with world famous celebrities.

For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you see this:

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FluentU lets you tap to look up any word.

Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.

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FluentU helps you learn fast with useful questions and multiple examples. Learn more.

The best part? FluentU remembers the vocabulary that you’re learning. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You have a truly personalized experience.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

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