Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • Hi, I'm Martin.

  • Welcome to Oxford Online English!

  • In this lesson, you can learn how to describe a person who you know in English.

  • Think about someone you know well.

  • It could be someone in your family, a close friend, someone you work with, or someone

  • else.

  • How would you describe this person?

  • What does this person look like?

  • What kind of personality does this person have?

  • Describing a person is useful in many situations, including speaking exams like the IELTS speaking

  • test or the FCE speaking exam.

  • In this lesson, you'll learn how to describe a person in detail using clear, natural English.

  • During this lesson, you're going to practice, so you need to think of someone you're going

  • to describe.

  • It can be anyone you know well.

  • Got someone?

  • Great!

  • Let's begin.

  • Part one: describing appearance.

  • First question: what does he or she look like?

  • What can you say when describing a person's appearance?

  • You can talk about the person's height and build:

  • "My brother is tall and well-built."

  • "My friend Lia is medium height and slim."

  • "Craig, who I work with, is short and overweight."

  • Do you know what 'well-built' means?

  • Someone who is well-built is broad and strong, with big muscles.

  • You can also add adverbs to make your sentences more precise:

  • "My brother is quite tall and well-built."

  • "My friend Lia is medium height and really slim."

  • "Craig, who I work with, is short and a little overweight."

  • Then, maybe add something about the person's hair:

  • "He has short, brown hair, but he's going bald fast."

  • "She has long, dark blonde hair."

  • "He has curly, fair hair."

  • What does 'fair' mean here?

  • It's the opposite of 'dark', and you can use it to describe someone's hair or skin.

  • Finally, what else can you say about the person's appearance?

  • Imagine you're describing the person to me, and you want me to be able to recognise

  • this person from your description.

  • What could you say?

  • There are many possibilities, of course, but here are a few suggestions:

  • "He looks a bit like a younger version of Vin Diesel."

  • "She's really beautiful, with very striking features."

  • "He has a long scar on his right elbow."

  • Do you know what 'striking features' means?

  • In this context, 'features' refers to someone's face.

  • 'Striking' means that you can't help noticing something.

  • So if someone has 'striking features', it means he or she has a very unusual and attractive

  • face.

  • What about 'scar'?

  • Scars are left over when you get a deep cut or have an operation.

  • Okay, so now you should be able to make three sentences about the person you're describing,

  • like this:

  • "My brother is quite tall and well-built.

  • He has short, brown hair, but he's going bald fast.

  • He looks a bit like a younger version of Vin Diesel."

  • Your turn: pause the video and make three sentences about the person you're describing.

  • Remember: height/build, then hair, then general appearance.

  • Could you do this?

  • If so, great jobwe've only done one part, and you've already got the start of a good

  • description.

  • But of course, there's more we can add.

  • Part two: describing positive characteristics.

  • Another question: what's this person like?

  • Do you know what this question means?

  • It means I want you to tell me about the person's personality.

  • Let's start with positive words you can use to talk about someone's character.

  • Think about the person you're describing.

  • What good things can you say about him or her?

  • You could describe someone as 'kind', but it's better to be more specific if you can.

  • Better words to use are 'considerate'—meaning someone who always thinks about other people

  • and their needsor 'warm'—meaning someone who shows positive feelings to others and

  • makes other people feel good.

  • Or, maybe this person is good at making other people laugh.

  • You could say they are 'funny' or that they have a 'good sense of humour'.

  • More generally, you can describe someone as 'fun' or 'entertaining' if people enjoy spending

  • time with them.

  • What else?

  • Well, for a friend, it's very important that a person is 'reliable'—that you can

  • depend on them to keep their promises and be there for you when you need them.

  • Similarly, you could describe people as 'honest' or 'straightforward'.

  • If someone is straightforward, they're honest, easy to understand and easy to spend time

  • with.

  • Straightforward people say what they think, but not in a rude way, and they don't keep

  • secrets or gossip about other people.

  • Let's look at three more.

  • Most of us like spending time with people who are 'cheerful'—people who smile a lot

  • and are usually in a good mood.

  • Cheerful people are often 'positive' and 'optimistic'—they expect good things to happen.

  • So now you have twelve positive adjectives you can use to describe someone's personality.

  • Can you use any of these adjectives to talk about the person you're describing?

  • When you use these adjectives, always try to add an example or a reason.

  • For example, don't just say:

  • "My brother is really funny."

  • "My friend Lia is a very cheerful person."

  • Add some details or examples to make your answer more interesting, like this:

  • "My brother's really funny.

  • He likes making weird jokes, generally at the most inappropriate moment."

  • "My friend Lia is a very cheerful person.

  • Even early in the morning, she's always smiling and in a good mood.

  • I don't know how she does it!"

  • If possible, you could even add a story to really illustrate the person's character.

  • "Craig, who I work with, is such an honest guy.

  • I remember one time he found a wallet with £500 in a pub.

  • It would have been easy to keep the moneythere was nothing in the wallet to say whose it

  • was, but he said it wouldn't be right to keep it, and he insisted on going straight

  • to the police, right that minute."

  • Adding stories like this can really bring a description to life.

  • You've also seen some good ways to use these adjectives:

  • "My brother is really _______."

  • "My friend Lia is a very ________ ." "Craig is such an _______ guy."

  • Of course, you can change these and use them in your answer.

  • What about you?

  • Pause the video, and try to use some of these adjectives about the person you're describing.

  • Don't forget to add details and examples to your description, or you can even add a

  • story if possible!

  • Next, let's look at part three: describing negative characteristics.

  • No one's perfect, right?

  • We all have our flaws, so let's look at how to describe the bad side of someone's

  • personality.

  • Many of the words you saw in part two have direct opposites which you can use.

  • For example:

  • 'kind' → 'unkind' 'considerate' → 'inconsiderate'

  • 'honest' → 'dishonest' 'reliable' → 'unreliable'

  • Of course, there are other words you can use, too.

  • Some people can be 'selfish' or 'self-centered'—they think about themselves too much, and don't

  • think about the needs of others.

  • These two words have a similar meaning.

  • Even more extreme, you can describe someone as 'self-obsessed'.

  • A self-obsessed person only thinks about themselves, and doesn't seem to realise that other people

  • exist at all!

  • Not everyone can be funny, but you don't want to be seen as 'humourless' or 'dull'.

  • 'Dull' is similar to 'boring', while 'humourless' means that someone has no sense of humour

  • and is too serious.

  • If someone doesn't do what they say or doesn't keep their promises, you've already seen

  • two words you can use: 'dishonest' or 'unreliable'.

  • Similarly, you could describe someone as 'insincere'—meaning that someone says things without meaning them.

  • For example, if someone is always friendly on the surface, but they don't really feel

  • anything inside, you could describe that person as insincere.

  • Their friendliness doesn't mean anything.

  • Finally, cheerful people are always in a good mood, but what's the opposite?

  • You could describe someone as 'moody' or 'grumpy'.

  • Moody people's moods change very easily, and they are often in a bad mood.

  • Grumpy people never seem to be in a good mood and are always unhappy and negative.

  • So now, you have twelve negative adjectives to go with your twelve positive adjectives!

  • As before, when you use these adjectives to describe someone, try to add details or examples.

  • For example:

  • "My brother can be a little unreliable sometimes.

  • He often 'forgets' to do things he promised he would."

  • "Lia's great, but sometimes I feel she's a bit insincere.

  • She says all these nice things, but I'm not sure she really means them."

  • "My colleague Craig is so moody.

  • He'll be fine one minute, then suddenly he starts acting like he hates everyone.

  • It makes him quite difficult to be around."

  • You can see how we often use slightly more indirect language to talk about someone's

  • negative characteristics:

  • "My brother can be a little _______ sometimes."

  • "Sometimes I feel that she's a bit ________."

  • Of course, if you really want to be direct, you can be:

  • "My colleague is so ________."

  • Now, pause the video and try to use these words and phrases.

  • Make 2-3 sentences, and don't forget to add examples and details!

  • Part four: talking about your relationship.

  • Finally, let's add some details about how you know this person and your relationship.

  • Look at three sentences:

  • "We've known each other ________."

  • "We met ________."

  • "We get on _______, because ________."

  • Do you know what 'get on' means here?

  • By itself, it means to have a good relationship with someone.