When you need to describe things, ideas, or people in English, finding the right words isn’t always easy. Even native English speakers struggle to find the right descriptive words at times. It is especially hard when you need to describe a person, as people can have very distinctive looks, personalities, and behavior.
Nonetheless, learning how to describe a person is vital to becoming fluent in English. In this guide, we will cover some of the best phrases to describe a person, as well as useful tips to help keep your descriptions positive and friendly!
How to Describe Someone’s Appearance
Talking about how someone looks is complicated for a couple of reasons. First of all, describing someone’s appearance can seem a little rude, even if you’re trying to say something nice. People don’t like to feel objectified (made to feel like an object instead of a person), so it’s important to always keep physical descriptions very positive.
However, if you’re talking with people that you don’t know very well, it’s probably best to avoid describing a person’s appearance entirely.
In any case, here are a few general tips to keep in mind when describing people’s appearance:
- Start with very general descriptions – Using general descriptions will help you describe someone without having to go into specific details. For example, you can describe someone’s appearance by talking about their gender, height, weight, age, hair color, or eye color. However, remember that some people can be sensitive about these descriptions (especially weight and age), so keep this in mind when you need to describe people.
- Try to avoid subjective descriptions – Subjective descriptions can be mean sometimes. For example, describing someone as “fat” or “ugly” is very rude and hurtful. Try to avoid using subjective descriptions whenever possible, especially if you’re talking with or about someone you’ve just met.
- If you need to be subjective, keep it positive – Not all subjective descriptions are bad. So, if you need to give your opinions about how someone looks, try to be as nice as possible! That said, even positive descriptions can feel a little invasive or forward, so use your best judgment when describing people subjectively.
Now let’s look at a few positive appearance adjectives to help get you started!
Adjectives for Appearance: Positive
As a rule of thumb, using positive adjectives to describe a person typically steers the conversation in a better direction. If you’d like to see some more ways to describe people in a positive way, check out the ultimate list of positive adjectives!
Adjectives for Appearance: Neutral and Negative
Here are a few example phrases to describe a person in English:
- We look very ______.
- He/She is very ______.
- I think they are ______.
- I hope you don’t mind me saying so, but you are very ______.
- Hopefully you don’t take this the wrong way, but I think you’re ______.
- I don’t mean to sound rude, but you look very ______.
*Important Note: When you speak to someone directly about their appearance, it’s polite to preface (begin) your statement with one of the underlined phrases above. This is especially true if you’re discussing negative traits. These phrases will let the other person know that you’re not trying to be rude or unpleasant. However, this doesn’t guarantee that they will like what you have to say!
How to Describe a Person’s Personality
It’s important to learn how to describe someone’s physical features, but it’s even more important to learn how to describe someone’s personality. Personalities are complex, making them difficult to put into words. Nonetheless, there are plenty of great ways to describe someone’s personality and character traits.
When you’re describing someone’s personality, you should take some of the same precautions that you would when describing their appearance. It’s always best to keep things positive and avoid hurting anyone’s feelings. That’s why positive adjectives are so useful!
Now let’s look at some positive personality adjectives to get you started.
Adjectives for Personality: Positive
Adjectives for Personality: Neutral and Negative
Here are a few more phrases to describe a person in English:
- We are ______.
- He/She is usually ______.
- They tend to be ______.
- I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but I think you’re ______.
- Hopefully you don’t mind me saying so, but you are very ______.
- I don’t mean to sound rude, but you seem ______.
*Important note: Remember, when talking to someone directly about their personality, don’t forget to include one of the underlined phrases above to help “soften” your words. This will help you sound more friendly and less critical, especially if you want to discuss someone’s negative character traits!
Real-life conversations are far more nuanced than a word list and definitions. For example, did you know that depending on the tone and the context, a positive adjective could sometimes be used as an insult? Let’s hear what our lead instructor, Anita, has to say about that.
Ultimately, the only way to master these words is to practice using them in live conversations and getting effective feedback. That’s exactly why we built SpeakUp. Join an engaging live conversation today and get critical feedback on your English, all for free for 1 week.