Help your student describe themselves and others with these words for personality and appearance.

Remember: There are hundreds of words here and so only teach a few at a time and always practice the target language verbally so that your student understands how to use them in context. For more tips on how to teach vocabulary, check out our post The best way to teach vocabulary so that it sticks.

PDF download for your students

Once your students have learned almost all of this vocabulary, here is a PDF that they can keep containing the lesson points.

Positive personality adjectives

Intermediate

Ambitious – determined and aspiring.

‘Great things can be achieved if you are an ambitious person.’

Assertive – confident and strong.

‘It’s important to find the right balance between being assertive and learning how to take instructions when you work for a company.’

Chatty, talkative– likes to talk.

‘My sister is very chatty and talkative.’

Cheerful – a happy soul.

‘Usually my boss is quite cheerful.’

Charming – enchanting.

‘My brother is very charming sometimes. He always gets what he wants from our parents!’

Conscientious – reliable, hardworking.

‘We have a team of conscientious workers who I can always rely on.’

Funny – comic.

‘My sister is very funny. She is always telling jokes.’

Fun – a person with whom you can have a good time.

‘My uncle is a very fun person. He is the life and soul of a party.’

Kind – caring and good-hearted.

‘Thank you for taking care of my dog. You are very kind.’

Mature – reliable, with an older mind.

‘Is it true that the oldest sibling is more mature?’

Reliable – someone you can trust to do what you ask them to do.

‘Don’t worry, my girlfriend can pick you up from the airport, she is very reliable.’

Advanced

Easy-going, laid-back – relaxed.

‘I’m too easy-going sometimes and often forget to pay the bills.’

Loyal – someone you can always trust to be there for you.

‘Why do people love dogs?’ ‘Because they are loyal!’

Outgoing – sociable.

‘I am not as outgoing as I used to be when I was a student.’

open-minded – someone who will listen to new ideas.

‘It’s important to be open-minded when trying to find a solution to a problem.’

Sensitive – someone who feels a lot of emotion (typically cries at sad movies).

‘I cried when I watched Forest Gump.’ ‘Really? You’re so sensitive!’

Sensible – someone who is responsible.

‘My daughter is very sensible and always does her homework as soon as she arrives home from school.’

Selfless – someone who does lots of things for other people.

‘Mothers are often selfless when it comes to their children.’

Thoughtful – pensive.

‘My sister is a very thoughtful person, who often thinks of others.’

Trustworthy – someone you can trust.

‘It’s important that the bank employs trustworthy people.’

Smart – intelligent.

‘Nowadays we have smartphones, smartwatches and smart-fridges. What’s next, smart-coffee-cups?’

Wise – a person who is intelligent and compassionate from their many years of experience.

‘My grandmother was a very wise person who always used to give me great advice.’


Negative personality adjectives

Intermediate

Arrogant – superior, egotistical.

‘He always gets arrogant when he wins at cards.’

Bossy – domineering, authoritarian.

‘My boss is very bossy. I guess that’s why she’s in charge.’

Closed-minded – not open to new ideas.

‘People in this town are so closed-minded.’

Disorganised – not organised.

‘When I was young, I was very disorganised – but now it’s the opposite.’

Immature – not mature.

‘My cousin is so immature. He can’t keep any job.’

Selfish – egotistical, self-centred.

‘Why won’t you clean the house with me? You’re so selfish.’

Vain – someone who is constantly thinking about their appearance.

‘Narcissist was a vain man from Greek mythology who was captivated by his own image in a river.’

Advanced

Forgetful – someone who keeps forgetting things.

‘I’m so forgetful. If I don’t put my keys in the same place every night, I forget where they are.’

Insecure – a person who suffers from anxiety and self-doubt.

‘Don’t be so insecure. You can wear what you want, it doesn’t matter what others think.’

Insincere – dishonest and hypocritical.

‘She said I did a good job but I think she was being insincere.’

Moody – your mood changes.

‘Teenagers are often moody.’

Stubborn – obstinate, immovable.

‘My father is so stubborn. He absolutely refuses to fly.’

Spoilt – someone (often a child) who has been given everything they want and are now rude and self-centred.

‘Some of the kids at school are so spoilt. They get a new mobile phone every year and they are not grateful.’


Speaking practice

Don’t try to teach your student all of this vocabulary at once. Instead teach them a few words and verbally practice with this speaking practice ideas. Teach your student one word and get them to make a sentence. Next ask them what they think the opposite personality trait would be.

1. Ask your student to put the words you have taught them in order from best to worst personality trait.

2. Which personality traits are the best and worse to have in a:

  • Boss
  • Life partner
  • Parent
  • Teacher

3. Which personality traits are the best to have for these professions?

  • Politician
  • Nurse
  • Journalist
  • CEO

Homework

Ask your student to answer these personality questions from 16 Personality Types to discover their personality.

  • Were they surprised by the results?
  • Did they agree with the answer?
  • What are their personality traits that work for them in their job? Which work against them?
TED Talk: The Psychology of your future self

A six minute TED talk on how a person changes much more than they think throughout their life.


Grammar

The most natural grammar point to teach with this vocabulary topic is ‘to be like’.

For example:

‘What is your boss like?’

‘She is organised but sometimes selfish.’

Speaking practice: To be like

Take it in turns with your student to ask and answer questions with ‘what + to be + like?’

Tutors should vary the question to show the student all the possibilities with this grammar form. For example:

‘Are you more like your mother or your father?’

‘Are you and your siblings alike?’ (using the adjective ‘alike’)

‘What is your city like?’

‘What is your job like?’

Remember: Don’t forget to allow your student to ask you questions to practice the question form, as questions are the most difficult part of the grammar point.


Appearance adjectives

Hair

To have curly hair – hair with lots of curls.  

To be bald – to have no hair.

To have blond, brown, black, grey, red hair – a description of hair colours.

To be a blond, brunette, red-head – the adjective used for people (usually women) with that hair colour.

‘How strange! You can describe both men and women as blond but only a woman as a brunette or red-head.’

To have straight hair – hair with no curls.

To have wavy – hair with a slight curl.

Hairstyles

To have a ponytail – hair is collected at the back of the head in a ‘tail.’

To have a bun – hair is collected at the back of the head without a ‘tail.’

‘Princess Leia in the first Star Wars movie wore two buns at the side of her head.’

 A fringe (UK) / bangs (US) – the shorter piece of hair at the front of the face.

‘Bangs go in and out of fashion.’ ‘What? Oh, in the UK we call them fringes.’

Facial hair

To have a beard – full facial hair.

To be clean-shaven – no facial hair.

To have a goatee – a small beard on your chin and nowhere else.

To have a moustache – a line of hair under your nose.

To have sideburns – hair which starts from your ear and goes down to your jaw.

Bodies

To have a belly/ paunch –to be quite slim but with a larger stomach.

To be slim – to be the correct weight.

To be skinny/thin – to be underweight.

To be overweight – to have an excess amount of weight.

To be muscular/ well-built – to have a muscly body.

To be tall/ short/ medium height – different heights for people.

Approximate age

If you don’t know how old someone is then you say that:

Someone is in their early, mid or late + decade. For example:

‘She is in her late-30s.’ ‘He is in his mid-40s.’ ‘We are in our early-20s.’

Attractiveness

Beautiful – a very attractive woman.

‘To be beautiful in English, the woman would normally have to be extremely attractive like a famous model or actress.’

Pretty – a nice-looking woman or girl.

Cute – a nice-looking small thing like a baby, child or dog.

‘Your dog is so cute. I love its little face.’

Handsome – a very attractive man.

Good-looking – a generic term for a man or woman who is attractive.

‘Instead of beautiful, pretty or handsome, it’s now more common to describe people as good-looking.’

To be unattractive – not attractive.

Ugly – extremely unattractive.

‘To describe a person as ugly is insulting. However, it’s common to use the adjective for objects such as cars, houses or items of clothing.’

Skin colours

To be white.

To be black, to be Afro-American (if the person comes from the USA).

To be brown.

To have freckles – small brown marks on your skin from the sun.

To have pale skin – very white skin.

To have olive skin – darker, Mediterranean skin.

To have rosy cheeks – pink cheeks.

Picture task

Next, ask your student to describe these people, facial and hairstyles.

Download the picture worksheet here

Homework

TED ED Talk: Why is this paining so captivating?

A four minute TED ED talk on why the paining Las Meinias is so captivating.


Grammar

The most natural grammar point to teach is ‘to look like.’ For example:

‘What does she look like?’

Speaking practice

Using the grammar point ‘to look like’, ask and answer questions with your student such as:

  • What does your brother/sister look like?
  • Do you look more like your mother or your father?
  • Do you and your sibling look alike? (Using the adjective ‘alike.’)

Final thoughts

We hope you find our appearance and personality lessons useful. What words have we missed? Add them to the comments section below and we’ll include them above.

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