It is possible that in the IELTS speaking test you could be asked to describe a person. This is most likely to occur in part two, where you will be given a cue card. It is very common to be asked to describe a person and so you should know how to do this as effectively as possible. That requires knowing lots of adjectives that describe people in vivid and interesting ways.
In this article, I’m going to show you how to describe people by using accurate and dynamic adjectives. Read on if you want to improve your descriptions and level up your English abilities!
Oh yes, and you can learn some synonyms for “people” here so that you can avoid repetitious language.
The Fundamentals of Describing People
Before we get into actual adjectives for describing people, let’s first think about a few key issues. First of all, you need to understand whatever question or task you have been given. If you are asked to describe a helpful person, for example, then don’t wrack your brain in search of words to describe that person’s appearance. It’s probably not appropriate. On the other hand, describing a well-dressed person will require talking about their appearance.
Speaking of that, we also have to consider whether our language is suitable for that particular context. Obviously, we should be careful not to offend people, so try to skip very superficial language and don’t call people “beautiful” or “handsome” or “ugly” unless you have a good reason to do so. I know that in some cultures it is quite acceptable to use this language, but in most English-speaking places it is a bit offensive.
Next, we should focus on giving really vivid descriptions if possible. That means we should aim to get across as much relevant information as possible. Think about these two descriptions:
- He was a funny man.
- He was incredibly witty, always quick to throw in a joke and lighten a conversation. He had this silly smirk that would appear when he got an idea in his head, and then he’d wait for just the right moment to deliver his pun or observation, and his delivery was always impeccable. The people around him were constantly laughing and most people remembered him as the life of the party.
Obviously, a 70-word description is going to be a bit more detailed than a 5-word one but the main issue I want to highlight here is that these essentially say the same thing but that the latter does it more effectively. It’s not all about adjectives, of course, but this second description uses lots of keen observations to give a vivid picture of this man. You can almost see him in your mind after reading it, right?
Adjectives for Describing People
Let’s now look at some adjectives to help you describe people more effectively. I will group them so that you can learn them more easily.
Let’s first of all think about adjectives to describe people’s personalities because I think these are the most important. It would be rare to need to give detailed physical descriptions in IELTS and, as I said before, superficial descriptions can be offensive or inappropriate.
|Affectionate||Readily feeling or showing fondness or tenderness||They’re a really affectionate couple. They’re always hugging and kissing in public, which makes their friends uncomfortable.|
|Aggressive||Ready or likely to attack or confront||He’s a really aggressive guy. I don’t know why his girlfriend puts up with him. I can’t stand it when people are aggressive like that.|
|Ambitious||Having or showing a strong desire to succeed||He’s really ambitious. I think it’s because he’s young. I wish I still had that sort of energy. However, ambitious often fades with age.|
|Anxious||Feeling or showing worry, nervousness, or unease about something||She’s very anxious. She worries about everything and it drives her friends crazy! I wish she could just calm down a bit.|
|Bossy||Fond of giving people orders||That little girl is really bossy! She’s always telling her friends what to do. One day, she’ll go too far and have no friends left.|
|Charismatic||Exercising a compelling charm that inspires devotion in others||Barack Obama was popular because he was a really charismatic politician. People are always attracted to charismatic leaders.|
|Courageous||Similar to “brave.”||I think astronauts are really courageous. The work they do is very dangerous, and they do it all for the benefit of humanity.|
|Devious||Showing a skilful use of underhanded tactics to achieve goals||He’s such a devious person. You just can’t trust him at all.|
|Generous||Showing a readiness to give more of something, especially money, than is necessary or expected||My sister is super generous. She gives loads of money to charity but never tells anyone. If everyone were that generous, the world would be a much nicer place.|
|Moody||Given to unpredictable changes of moody||My sister is really moody. She’s always angry at my about something and I never know why.|
|Supportive||Willing to help or emotionally support others||I try to be supportive but sometimes it is hard to put others first.|
|Vain||Having or showing an excessively high opinion of one’s appearance||People are incredibly vain these days. Everyone takes selfies and posts them on their social media. It didn’t used to be that way.|
You can find other terms by using a dictionary such as the Cambridge one.
Describing Physical Features
To physically describe someone, you’ll need to know a good range of nouns but adjectives can also help a lot. These can be subjective and sometimes they can be offensive, so be considerate when you use them.
Here are some adjectives for describing people’s appearance:
You might want to focus on a part of that person (like their face, hair, etc) and describe those parts with more adjectives. For example:
- Round face
- Straight hair
- Blue eyes
- Delicate hands
- Broad shoulders
It’s great to mix adjectives and nouns for more specific descriptions, but of course not all of these can logically be combined, so choose carefully. Doing this well can lead to a good score for Lexical Resource and Grammatical Range and Accuracy.
Here are some more adjectives for describing personalities:
Positive and Negative Adjectives
As I have alluded to several times, describing people can be tricky because we don’t want to offend anyone. As such, it’s worth noting that adjectives often have positive or negative connotations. These might vary from culture to culture and person to person, but you should be aware of them so that you use them correctly and sensitively.
Here are some examples:
If you are unsure of a word’s connotations, check a dictionary or ask a teacher to clarify it for you.
Here’s a video that gives some more vocabulary that you can use for describing people:
Examples Using Adjectives
Let’s look at a few example descriptions. Note the use of adjectives for more colourful and descriptive language.
- My brother is a really outgoing and friendly person, who’s always the life of a party. He’s talkative but knows how to listen, too. People like him because he’s so charismatic but I don’t think he’s got a trace of arrogance and he always puts others first.
- I met an interesting man last week. He was really mysterious, actually. He spoke in an unusual way and always alluded to things but never fully explained them. I don’t mean he was dishonest or deceptive but he seemed reluctant to talk about himself. People like that are fascinating and it always makes me wonder what their life is really like.
- My teacher is a brilliant woman. She’s utterly dedicated to her students and will stop at nothing to help them achieve their learning goals. She’s got a kindly face, too, and I think most people look at her and are immediately put at ease. There’s just something in her eyes that tell you she’s a trustworthy and decent person.
You can see more of my descriptions in these sample answers:
- Describe a well-dressed person
- Describe someone who influenced you
- Describe an interesting person
- Describe a polite person
- Describe a helpful person
- Describe a famous person
- Describe a sportsperson
- Describe a close friend
These obviously would require different language, so check my sample answers and learn lots of great new vocabulary!