Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles 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 job—we'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 needs—or '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 money—there 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.