Describing people

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Beginning English — Lesson 3 — People
This page: How to describe people in English
Pages in this lesson: Vocabulary — Grammar — Listening — Dialogue — Reading — Pronunciation — Dictation — Game

Describing People in English

When we describe people we use some expressions with the verb «to be» and others with the verb «to have.»

to be
Age Body Personality
He (She) is . . . He (She) is . . . He (She) is . . .
young tall intelligent (smart)
a teenager short dumb
middle aged fat funny
old overweight serious
elderly thin nice
20 years old strong lazy
in his thirties weak hard-working

*With «bald» we use the verb «to be.»

Practice
Select the correct words to describe these people. When you finish, click on the «Check» button.

15 games for the language of describing people

1. Blind date quiz show One person asks questions of 3 to 4 students, who should answer about the person on the photo they have. The person who asked the questions should then decide who would make the best date, and after being shown the photos of the one they rejected will finally be shown […]

1. Blind date quiz show
One person asks questions of 3 to 4 students, who should answer about the person on the photo they have. The person who asked the questions should then dec > of the one they rejected will finally be shown the photo of the one they chose. This works well with photos of famous people.

2. Internet dating chain letters
Another fun variation on the dating theme is for students to write one line about the person wanting a date (from their imaginations), fold over the paper so what they wrote can not be seen, pass the piece of paper to the next person to continue the description etc. When each piece of paper has been passed around at least 6 people, the next person can unfold it and decide if the letter makes sense and/or sounds like a good date.

3. Describing people 20 questions
Students ask yes/no questions about the people whose photos or written descriptions they have (“Is it a woman?” “Does she have long hair?” “Does she have a high pressure job’”) until they guess which person their partner was thinking of.

4. Describing people memory games
For example, students test each other on what people in class look like and are wearing while the person answering the questions has their eyes closed.

5. Guess my description
Students write 10 sentences about themselves and then pass the piece of paper to someone else. The person who received the paper reads the sentences out, starting with the most difficult clues to guess from, until everyone guesses who it refers to.

6. Ranking traits
For example, rank personality words by how important they are for a particular job. Other groups then guess what the job is from the ranking and then say if they agree or disagree

7. Brainstorm sentence endings board race
Teams race to write as many correct ending to a sentence stem as they can, e.g. “He has blue…”, “He has a big…” or just “He is…”

8. Picture dictation
One person explains a picture of a person to their partner, and their partner tries to draw what they hear. This can be done with the person explaining being allowed to see it being drawn or (more difficult) not being able to see and just having to ask and answer questions to make sure they have got it right. It can also be done with the original picture being a line drawing or a photo, with the former obviously being much simpler.

9. Alibi game
Each pair of students is told that they are a suspect for a murder last night and that person’s alibi, and must construct a story about what they were wearing, what the people around them looked like etc when they were at the pub rather than at the scene of the crime at the time of the murder. The two people are then questioned separately on all the details, and the pair in the class with most inconsistencies between their stories are the guilty ones.

10. Project/research
Students are set a task to find out as many things about a famous person as they can. They get points either for the number of details they found, or for every detail they found that no one else did.

11. Dominoes/jigsaws
Students are given different parts of a cut up picture or pictures showing many different people, and have to match the pictures up without showing them to each other.

12. Magazine search
Students challenge each other to find people of a certain kind in the magazines or textbooks that they have (e.g. “Look for someone wearing a blue hat/with a six pack”), and then race to be the first to find that thing. This works with different people having both the same and different books, but if they have different publications you might want to allow them to swap occasionally.

13. Guess the nationality
People describe one person or make generalizations about someone from a particular country, and the others try to guess the nationality. You can do the same thing with regions of their country. This can lead onto language of generalization such as “Most people think that…” or “People in this country tend to…”, which is good for speaking exams such as IELTS, or discussion of the truth and acceptability of stereotypes.

14. Sentence expansion
Give students a very short description of someone, e.g. “He has hair”. They then take turns to make that sentence longer and longer, until someone makes a mistake or gives up.

15. Generalization vary the sentence
This is similar to Sentence Expansion above. Start with a sentence that is an overgeneralization, e.g. “Spanish people are short”, then take turns expanding or changing the sentence to make it more generally true.

3 Comments

  • Balnur says:

Thank you! Wonderful activities! I’m going to use them for a vocabulary revision.

Thank you so much for these wonderful fun activities to revise appearance features. They will certainly bring in a lot of excitement for the students.

Describing people

Welcome to twominenglish.com. Teaching you English through two-minute lessons.

In this extra learning lesson, we will learn in detail about the words and phrases you use while describing people.

Narration

Ramona: When you are describing people, you should describe how they look, color of their eyes, how tall or short they are or what kind of clothes they are wearing.

Brad: Yes, if you have to identify a person, you need to describe his/her physical features, but a person is more than how he/she looks. You must also learn to describe this person’s behavior, preferences, clothing, etc.

Ramona: At the very basic level you can describe how a person looks by using adjectives that describe the body type. For example: He is tall, he is thin, she is short, he is fat, she is obese, she is slim, he is of average build. These are some basic attributes for body types.

Brad : Do remember that some words are not considered polite, especially if you are describing what some may consider negative characteristics. For example, instead of saying ‘she is fat,’ you can say ‘she’s a little overweight’.

Ramona : You could also say ‘he’s on the heavy side’. Try to avoid discussing the weight of people before them because many people are conscious about their weight.

Brad : Apart from body type, the second most important thing that people describe is the face. You can describe the various features of the face like:

Brad : He has long ears. She has small eyes and big eyebrows. Her nose is very long. She has full lips and crooked teeth. He has blue eyes. Frankly describing the face is not easy and there are a number of things you can say about the face.

Ramona : Let’s start from the forehead. A forehead is often described as broad, narrow or prominent.

Brad : The eyebrows can be bushy or sparse. Sometimes they are also described as full, as in she has full eyebrows.

Ramona : The eyes are a very important part of the face. You can describe the eye color, like she has blue eyes or he has brown eyes. The shape of the eyes is also important. For example, he has large eyes, her eyes are small. She has doe-like eyes with full eyelashes.

Brad : The common words used to describe the nose are: narrow, wide, long, short, snub, big, small, upturned and hooked.

Ramona : The ears are usually described as small or big. The lips can be full or narrow and the mouth can be big, small, or wide.

Brad : Wow! Describing people is really hard work, but if you know all these words you can describe them to a fair degree.

Ramona : That’s right! Don’t forget to view our original lesson and to practice with it.

Common Words For Body Type

Tall
Short
Big
Small
Fat
Obese
Lean
Slim
Thin
Lanky
Well-built
Muscular
Average-build
Overweight

IELTS Online Practice Materials

DESCRIBING people and family

A number of the speaking topics that you may be asked to talk about will involve describing or classifying people in some way. In Part 2, the long turn, the examiner may ask you to talk about a friend or a family member, a colleague or someone who has influenced you. You should talk about their physical appearance and their personality. You will score higher marks if you can demonstrate knowledge of precise and unusual vocabulary.

Generally, people’s physical appearances are described in terms of their height, build, hair colour and style, facial features, eye colour, maybe skin tone and any distinguishing features such as wearing glasses or having a beard, moustache, or particular dress style.

to have
Hair Face
He (She) has . . . He has . . .
black hair a beard
brown hair a mustache
red hair He (She) wears glasses.
blonde hair
gray hair
long hair
short hair
straight hair
wavy hair
curly hair
Dress casual, elegant, scruffy, smart, untidy, well dressed
Hair auburn, bald, black, blonde, clipped, cropped, curly, dark, dark brown, dyed, fair, light, light brown, long, medium length, mousey, premed, receding, shaved, short, straight, wavy
Facial features arched eyebrows, bushy eyebrows, high cheekbones, high forehead, long eyelashes, long nose, small mouth, snub nose, wide mouth
Height average height, lanky, medium height, short, tall
Skin black, brown, dark, fair, freckled, light, olive, pale, tanned
Build big, fat, medium build, muscular, overweight, plump, shapely, skinny, slim, stocky, svelte, thin, underweight, voluptuous, well built
Distinguishing features a beard, a mole, a moustache, a scar, earring(s), freckles, glasses or specs, spots, wrinkles

The vocabulary range to describe people’s personalities is extremely wide. In the test, you will most likely be asked to describe a close friend or a family member, so it is worth thinking in advance about how you would describe your friend, brother, grandmother or whoever. Again, you will score higher marks if you can demonstrate knowledge of precise and unusual vocabulary. Here are some vocabulary tasks to revise or expand your range.

Positive Negative
  1. approachable
  2. clever
  3. confident
  4. creative
  5. dynamic
  6. easy-going
  7. flexible
  8. friendly
  9. funny
  10. generous
  11. honest
  12. kind
  13. observant
  14. outgoing
  15. practical
  16. relaxed
  17. reliable
  18. shrewd
  19. sincere
  20. sociable
  21. talented
  22. trustworthy
  1. arrogant
  2. bossy
  3. cowardly
  4. cruel
  5. jealous
  6. lazy
  7. obstinate
  8. mean
  9. rude
  10. ruthless
  11. selfish
  12. weak willed

Listen to some examples of people talking about different people and their family.

Describing People (Adjectives) Lesson Plan

This lesson plan is FREE!

Sign up for accompanying:

  • ✔ worksheets
  • ✔ homework sheets
  • ✔ craft sheets
  • ✔ flashcards
  • ✔ song downloads
  • ✔ >

In this lesson students practice describing people using common adjectives. Students learn new adjectives, practice describing themselves and others, do a listening activity, play fun games and do a class survey.

Members get accompanying flashcards, worksheets, song and classroom reader.

  • Time: 40 mins — 1 hour
  • Objectives: Describing people using adjectives.
  • Structures: «What does s/he look like?», «Tell me all about him/her», «She/she is/has».
  • Target Vocab: tall, short, long hair, short hair, brown eyes, blue eyes, blonde hair, black hair, s/he is great.

Lesson Materials:

  • Printables:
  • — Describe your Friend Worksheet 1 or Describe your Friend Worksheet 2
  • — Describe Your Friend Class Survey worksheet
  • — Describe Your Family worksheet
  • — Reader worksheet
  • — Describe Your Friend song poster
  • — Warm Up & Wrap Up lesson sheet
  • Readers: The Clever Prince
  • Songs: Describe Your Friend

Supplies:

  • — colored crayons / pencils
  • — CD / Tape player / Computer or something to play the song on
  • — whiteboard or blackboard with as many different color markers / chalk as possible
  • — blank A4 paper — 1 per student
  • — magazine cut out pictures of people

Other Lesson Plans

  • Intro Lesson (Ages 3-7)
  • Intro Lesson (Ages 8-12)
  • Actions, Verbs & Tenses:
  • Can — for Ability
  • Morning Routines
  • Daily Routines & Times of the Day
  • Actions — Present Continuous
  • Future Plans using «going to»
  • Past Tense Activities — Regular Verbs
  • Past Tense Activities — Irregular Verbs: Part 1
  • Past Tense Activities — Irregular Verbs: Part 2
  • Adjectives:
  • Describing People
  • Describing Things
  • Comparing Things (Comparative Adjectives)
  • Comparing Things (Superlative Adjectives)
  • Adverbs:
  • Adverbs
  • Adverbs of frequency
  • Alphabet:
  • Alphabet
  • Animals:
  • Farm Animals
  • Pets & Possessions
  • Zoo Animals
  • Body:
  • Parts of the Body
  • Measuring Parts of the Body
  • Classroom:
  • >Clothes:
  • Clothes
  • Colors:
  • Colors
  • Directions:
  • Directions: left / right / forward / back
  • Family:
  • Family
  • Feelings & Emotions:
  • Feelings & Emotions
  • Food:
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Health & Sickness:
  • Health & Sickness
  • Holidays & Festivals:
  • Christmas
  • Easter
  • Halloween
  • Thanksgiving
  • Jobs:
  • Jobs
  • Likes, Dislikes & Favorites:
  • Likes & Dislikes
  • Favorites and Asking Why
  • Nature & Our World:
  • Our World
  • Numbers:
  • Numbers 1-10
  • Numbers 1-20
  • Places & Where We Live:
  • Places & Where We Live
  • Places in my Town
  • Rooms of a House
  • Prepositions of Location:
  • Prepositions of Location
  • Pronouns:
  • Subject Pronouns
  • Demonstrative pronouns
  • Shapes:
  • Shapes
  • Shopping:
  • Shopping & money
  • Sports:
  • Sports
  • Time, Days, Months, Seasons:
  • Telling the Time
  • Days of the Week
  • Months of the Year
  • Seasons
  • Time Frequency
  • Adverbs of Frequency
  • Toys:
  • Toys
  • Transport & Travel:
  • Transport & Travel
  • Wheels on the Bus
  • Weather:
  • Weather
Notes:

A lesson on descriptive adjectives and 3rd person ‘he/she’ and includes a lively song about describing your best friend.

IMPORTANT: In American English is it usual to use the structure «He/She has (long hair)» when describing, however in British English the most common structure is «He/She has got (long hair)» which is usually contracted to «He/She’s got (long hair)». In this lesson plan we provide American English structures first, followed by the British English version, shown as (GB: . ). The worksheets, song and reader accompanying this lesson plan come in both American and British English versions.

Lesson Procedure:

Warm Up and Maintenance:
New Learning and Practice:

1. Introduce the descriptions vocab
For this lesson you are going to use your artistic drawing skills. Use a whiteboard or blackboard to draw the following:

  • At the top of the board draw 2 circles (these will be the heads). Elicit «circles».
  • On each head draw a nose, ears and a mouth. Elicit each as you draw them. Then ask «What’s missing?».
  • Elicit «eyes». Ask «What color are they?» and give the students the options of the colors of markers / chalk you have. Then draw the eyes in the chosen colors with different colors for each set of eyes (NB: it’s ok to have strange colors, such as yellow, for the eyes – this will just make it more fun).
  • Elicit «hair» and again ask «What color is it?». On one head draw long hair in one color (for the girl) and on the other draw short hair (for the boy) in a different color. Teach / Elicit «long / short hair».
  • Finally, you’ll need to draw 2 bodies. But rather than you draw them you are going to ask for 2 volunteers to do the drawings. For the girl, draw some shoes quite near the head (so that she will be short) and for the boy draw some shoes right down at the bottom of the board (so he will be tall). Have the students draw the bodies so that they join the heads with the shoes. Now teach / elicit «tall / short».

It should end up looking something like this:

    Now that the completed pictures are on the board, chorus 3 times the following sentences and point to the pictures as you do:

  • He is tall.
  • He has short hair. (GB: He’s got short hair.)
  • He has (blue) eyes. (GB: He’s got (blue) eyes.)
  • He has (orange) hair. (GB: He’s got (orange) hair.)
  • She is short.
  • She has long hair. (GB: She’s got long hair.)
  • She has (green) eyes. (GB: She’s got (green) eyes.)
  • She has (brown) hair. (GB: She’s got (brown) hair.)

2. Do «Funny Body» drawings
Give a piece of A4 paper to each student and yourself.

  • On your piece of paper, model drawing a head with eyes, nose, ears, mouth, teeth and hair. Make it a really funny picture. Then tell everyone to draw their funny head. Make sure they use colors for the eyes and hair.
  • Next show them how to fold the paper so only the neck shows (so the head is folded behind). Then get everyone to pass their paper to a different student.
  • Now model drawing the body starting from the neck and going down to ankles – make it either a really short or long body and make it as funny as you can. Now have your students draw their bodies.
  • Again, show everyone how to fold the paper so only the ankles are showing and have everyone pass their paper to another student.
  • Finally, model drawing funny feet and get everyone to draw feet on their pictures. Then get everyone to fold up their papers and return each piece to the person who drew the head.
  • Let everyone open up their paper and have a good laugh at the pictures. Now ask everyone to «present» their person in the drawing to the rest of the class – you model first (e.g. «This is Tom. He is short. He has pink hair (GB: He’s got pink hair), etc.»).

3. Play the «Describe Your Friend» song and do the active listening worksheet
Tell the class that they are going to listen to a song about a boy and a girl. Give out either «Describe your Friend Worksheet 1» or «Describe your Friend Worksheet 2» (worksheet 2 is better if you cannot print out colored worksheets).

Read the instructions to the class and then play the song. As the song is playing students should do the worksheet activity. Play the song again if required. Finally, go through the song one more time stopping to check answers.

If everyone enjoyed the song, you can play it again and have everyone sing along (especially as it’s such a catchy tune!).

Lyrics for «Describe Your Friend»
(US Version)

Tell me about your best friend!

Chorus:
What does he look like?
What does he look like?
Tell me all about him.

Verse 1:
He is tall
He has short hair
He has brown eyes
He has blonde hair
But most of all, he is great!

Tell me about your best friend!

Chorus:
What does she look like?
What does she look like?
Tell me all about her.

Verse 2:
She is short
She has long hair
She has blue eyes
She has black hair
But most of all, she is great!


Lyrics for «Describe Your Friend»
(GB Version)

Tell me about your best friend!

Chorus:
What does he look like?
What does he look like?
Tell me all about him.

Verse 1:
He is tall
He’s got short hair
He’s got brown eyes
He’s got blonde hair
But most of all, he is great!

Tell me about your best friend!

Chorus:
What does she look like?
What does she look like?
Tell me all about her.

Verse 2:
She is short
She’s got long hair
She’s got blue eyes
She’s got black hair
But most of all, she is great!

Gestures for «Describe Your Friend»

There are no gestures for this song — a listening activity with worksheets accompanies the song instead. However, if students enjoy the song you can encourage them to sing along and dance!

For the active listening activity use either of the following worksheets:

  • «Describe your Friend Worksheet 1» is a ‘listen and circle what you hear’ exercise.
  • «Describe your Friend Worksheet 2» is a ‘listen and draw’ exercise (this is better if you can’t print out the color Worksheet 1)

We also have a video that you can stream in class to sing along with (Internet connection required):

4. Do the «Describe Your Friend Class Survey»
This will give your students the chance to use the lesson structures. Give out the class survey worksheet. Each student should work on their own for a few minutes looking at their classmates and filling in the table about 6 of their friends in the class. Whilst they are doing this, circulate and check and ask questions.

Finally, once everyone has finished, ask each student to describe some of their friends: Ask, «Tell me about your friend», «What does he / she look like?».

Finally, put students in pairs to practice asking about their classmates.

Additional activity: Have your students ask about and describe family members (e.g. brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents, etc.).

5. Read classroom reader «The Clever Prince»
Before class, download and print off the reader «The Clever Prince» and enough reader worksheets for each student. First, give each student a worksheet and have pairs read the descriptions of the characters from the story and draw what they think they will look like. Then as you read through the story students can check how close their drawings are to the character pictures.

As you go through each page, point to the pictures, elicit adjectives to describe the characters in the story:

Teacher: (pointing to the picture of the princess on page 1) Who is this?
Students: A princess?
Teacher: Yes, that’s right! And what does she look like? (elicit description adjectives)
Students: She has long, blond hair. (GB: She has got long, blond hair.)
Teacher: Yes! And she is very beautiful, isn’t she?
Students: Yes!

Get the students really involved in the story by asking lots of questions such as what the animals (real and fictional) are and what everyone thinks the prince should do to rescue the princess.

Alternatively, watch our video version of the reader (Internet connection required):

6. Play «Guess Who?»

For this activity, you’ll need lots of magazine pictures of people. Try and get lots of different types of people pictures, with different color eyes and hair. The more pictures you can find and cut-out before class the better (Note: This is a great resource to have for future lessons, as people pictures can be used in many different ways).

In class, lay out all of pictures on the floor or on a large table. Start by saying «My friend has (short, brown) hair, he is (tall) and he has (green) eyes» (GB: «My friend’s got (short, brown) hair, he is (tall) and he’s got (green) eyes»). Everyone should try and guess which picture you are describing. You can also give additional clues (clothes, etc.). The student who guesses correctly can then have a go describing someone.

Now that everyone has got the idea of the game, put students into small groups and have them play the game together. Whilst they are playing, monitor, help and encourage the use of the lesson structures.

Wrap Up:

1. Assign Homework: «Describe Your Family» worksheet.
2. Wrap up the lesson with some ideas from our «Warm Up & Wrap Up» page.

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