4 Keys to Describing People in Japanese

You might have an idea of the Japanese basics and how to talk about yourself in Japanese, but there will probably be times when you want to talk about someone else.

The following grammar and vocabulary is essential if you’d like to talk about someone else’s appearance for whatever reason—maybe you got separated, need to describe them or want to rave about their fabulous personality.

We’re going to take a look at third-person grammar, including a little about Japanese pronouns and vocabulary to describe physical features and personality traits. We’ll also look at sentence patterns for jobs and hobbies.


1. Describing People’s Relationships to You

First of all, it would be a good idea to describe how you know this person. Are they a friend, a family member or a classmate?

Here’s how to describe these things, and also how to explain that you’ve been separated from them, if applicable:

(わたしの ともだちが みつかりません。)
I can’t find my friend.

To change “friend” for another relationship designation, simply take away 友達 and replace it with:

  • お母さん (おかあさん) — Mother 
  • お父さん (おとうさん) — Father 
  • お婆さん (おばあさん) — Grandmother 
  • お爺さん (おじいさん) — Grandfather 
  • お兄さん (おにいさん) — Big brother
  •  (おとうと) — Little brother 
  • お姉さん (おねえさん) — Big sister 
  • (いもうと) — Little sister 
  • 従兄弟 (いとこ) — Cousin 
  • クラスメート (くらすめーと) — Classmate 
  • 同僚 (どうりょう) — Co-worker 

2. Describing Appearances

Describing someone’s appearance is something you may need to do if you get separated from a friend or a family member and you don’t have a photograph of them on your phone.

Here are some grammar patterns and vocabulary for this kind of situation.

Race and Gender

A good place to start would be at the very basics. Here are a few ways to describe someone’s gender and race, ethnicity or nationality:

    • 女の人 (おんなのひと) — Woman 

Is the woman wearing glasses?
    • 女性 (じょせい) — Female

Isn’t today the day that men are supposed to give gifts to women?
  • 男の人 (おとこのひと) — Man 
  • 男性 (だんせい) — Male 
  • 白人 (はくじん) — White 
  • 黒人 (こくじん) — Black 
  • インド人 (いんどじん) — Indian 
  • アジア人 (あじあじん) — Asian 
  • アメリカ人 (あめりかじん) — American 
  • フランス人 (ふらんすじん) — French 


Their hair is____.

  • 長い (ながい) — Long 
  • 短い (みじかい) — Short 
  • 薄い (うすい) — Thin 
  • まっすぐ — Straight 
  • 縮毛  (ちぢれげ) — Curly 
  • 黒い (くろい) — Black 
  • 茶色 (ちゃいろ) — Brown 
  • ブロンド/金髪 (ぶろんど/きんぱつ) — Blond
  • 赤毛 (あかげ) — Red 
  • 白髪 (はくはつ) — Gray 

Body Type

He is _____. 

She is _____. 

That person is _____. 

  • 背が高い (せが たかい) — Tall.
    Note: Remember that they use centimeters in Japan, not feet and inches. It might be a good idea to get used to meters and centimeters if you’re not familiar with them already.
  • 背が低い (せが ひくい) — Short 
  • センチぐらい。( ___せんち ぐらい。) — About ___ cm tall. 
  • 痩せ型/スリム (やせがた/すりむ) — Slim 
  • とても体格が良い (とても たいかくが よい) — Fat.
    Note: This is a very polite way of saying “fat,” like the English “large” or “big-boned.”)
  • 筋肉質 (きんにくしつ) — Muscular 

Additional Details

You might feel like your description isn’t detailed enough, and want to add extra information that’ll make the person stand out from the crowd or make them more memorable.

Here are a few extra phrases that might be useful if they apply to the person you’re describing:

(かれらは めがねをかけています。)
They’re wearing glasses. 

(かれらは そばかすが あります。)
They have freckles. 

(かのじょは ぴんくの りゅっくさっくを もっています。)
She has a pink backpack. 

(かれ/かのじょは ふたごの ひとりです。)
He/She’s a twin.

Using Connecting Adjectives

A useful thing to do when giving a description is to connect the Japanese adjectives for a smoother description.

For example, instead of saying this:

(かのじょの かみのけは ながいです。かのじょの かみのけは ちゃいろです。)
Her hair is long. Her hair is brown.

You can make it more natural by saying:

(かのじょの かみのけは ながくて ちゃいろです。
Her hair is long and brown.

Connecting adjectives is a useful skill when you’re describing anything, and saves time in this kind of situation.

If it’s an い adjective, such as 長い (ながい, long) or 短い (みじかい, short), remove the last い and replace it with くて before the next adjective.

If it’s not an い adjective, such as  赤毛 (あかげ, red), add で after it before the next adjective to connect them. There are some examples below:

(かれは きんにくしつで せが たかいです。)
He’s muscular and tall.

(かのじょのかみのけは ながくて くろいです。)
Her hair is long and black

(かれは せがひくくて とても たいかくが よいです。)
He’s short and fat (said in a polite and flattering way).

3. Describing Personality

You might want to describe another person’s personality when, for example, you’re showing pictures of your family back home and you want to talk about them. Or perhaps you met someone interesting at a recent event or you’re talking about a friend who has done something nice for you.

If the person you’re talking about is physically there and you’re introducing them, start with:

こちらは_____(さん) です。
This is _____.

Similar to describing appearance above, these simple sentence patterns can be used if you’re using adjectives:

He/she/that person is _____.

サムは_____(な) 人です。
(さむは_____ (な) ひとです。)
Sam is a _____ person.

Here are some useful adjectives to add in the gap. Don’t forget to connect multiple adjectives for a more colorful description:

  • いい — Good 
  • 面白い (おもしろい) — Funny 
  • 親切な (しんせつな) — Kind 
  • 優しい (やさしい) — Gentle 
  • 真面目な (まじめな) — True/Diligent/Hardworking 
  • スマート/頭がいい (すまーと/あたまがいい) — Smart/Intelligent

It’s always good to say nice things about people, and if you can describe these things in Japanese you’ll create an excellent impression of them, as well as of yourself.

Here are some added phrases you can say while describing the person to add a more natural flow. This one is great to add some enthusiasm to your description:

(ほんとうの ことです!)
I speak the truth! 

The Japanese word お世辞 means “a compliment that is more like flattery and can be ironic.” By emphasizing that you’re not just flattering someone, you’re making it anything nice you say sound nicer and more genuine:

(おせじ じゃない ですよ。)
I’m not just saying this. I really mean it.

When describing other people in Japanese, it’s important to mostly be positive, as it is, of course, more polite.

In the case that you might want to say something negative about someone, such as a sibling (I know I’ve been in that situation a few times), here are some negative words for you to use:

  • 意地悪 (いじわる) — Mean 
  • わがまま — Selfish 
  • ばか — Stupid 
  • 怠け者 (なまけもの) — Lazy 
  • つまらない/面白くない (つまらない/おもしろくない) — Boring 

But use them at your own risk! Describing someone in this way isn’t recommended!

4. Describing Jobs and Hobbies

As well as gossiping about someone’s appearance and personality, you might want to add extra information about the person such as their jobs and hobbies. Let’s look at turning first-person grammar into third-person grammar.

Unlike English, Japanese doesn’t change much when switching to third person. In English, “I like” becomes “she likes.” “I don’t” becomes “she doesn’t.” This doesn’t happen in Japanese, which makes it pretty simple.

When talking about yourself you say this:

I like _____. 

This becomes:

彼/彼女/person’s name は_____が好きです。
(かれ/かのじょ/person’s name は_____がすきです。)
He/she/person’s name likes _____.

They like _____. 

Here’s another one which you can use to talk about yourself:

I am _____. 

This becomes:

彼/彼女/person’s name は_____です
(かれ/かのじょ/person’s name は_____です。)
He/she/person’s name is _____. 

They are _____. 
Note: This one is used for adjectives or nouns.

And finally, you can use this one when describing what you like to do:

(わたしは_____するのが すきです。)
I like to _____.

This becomes:

彼/彼女/person’s name は_____するのが好きです。
(かれ/かのじょ/person’s name は_____するのが すきです。)
He/she/person’s name likes to _____. 

(かれらは_____するのが すきです。)
They like to _____. 


As mentioned above, to describe someone else’s job, you simply change 私 (わたし, I) to 彼ら (かれら, they), 彼 (かれ, he), 彼女 (かのじょ, she) or their name to describe their job.

Here are some jobs below for your reference. Start the sentence with the pronouns:

  • 幼稚園の先生 (ようちえんのせんせい) — Kindergarten teacher 
  • 小学校の先生 (しょうがっこうのせんせい) — Elementary school teacher 
  • 中学校の先生 (ちゅうがっこうのせんせい) — Junior high school teacher 
  • 高校の先生 (こうこうのせんせい) — High school teacher 
  • 大学の先生 (だいがくのせんせい) — University teacher 
  • 守衛 (しゅえい) — Security guard 
  • サラリーマン (さらりーまん) — Businessman 
  • 歯医者 (はいしゃ) — Dentist 
  • 医者 (いしゃ) — Doctor 
  • 看護師 (かんごし) — Nurse
  • 店の販売員 (みせのはんばいいん) — Salesperson in a shop 
  • 消防士 (しょうぼうし) — Firefighter 
  • エンジニア (えんじにあ) — Engineer


Here are some hobbies and interests in Japanese for your reference. To say that someone enjoys doing these things, insert any of the following into this sentence: 

(Name) は_____のが好きです。
((Name) は_____のがすきです。)

  • ジョギングする (じょぎんぐする) — Jogging 
  • 泳ぐ (およぐ) — Swimming 
  • 釣りをする (つりをする) — Fishing 
  • 本を読む (ほんをよむ) — Reading books
  • テレビ/映画を見る (てれび/えいがをみる) — Watching TV/movies 
  • スポーツする (すぽーつする) — Playing sports 
  • 音楽を聞く (おんがくをきく) — Listening to music 
  • ギター/ピアノ/ドラムを演奏する (ぎたー/ぴあの/どらむをえんそうする) — Playing guitar/piano/drums 
  • ブログを書く (ぶろぐをかく) — Writing blogs


Now you can describe people’s appearance, a little about their personality, their career and what they like to do. You can tell Japanese people more about your family and friends back home, and perhaps introduce someone who can’t introduce themselves in Japanese yet.

It’s a great skill that will help you connect people you’re mutual friends with, and talk about your family to people you might meet. Practice it whenever you get the chance!

And even if you have no one to introduce yourself to, you can follow along with related videos on FluentU, which also has learning tools to help you memorize the vocabulary and pronounce them correctly.

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Next time you’re having a conversation in Japanese, try introducing or talking about someone that you know using your new grammar patterns and vocabulary.


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