We usually use different adjectives to describe someone’s appearance in English. Those adjectives sometimes well describe someone as a whole or any of their specific features. If you are wondering how to talk about someone’s (friend, colleague, customer, stranger, etc.) looks, this post can help you with specific words and expressions to describe their appearance.
Talking about someone’s appearance in general with words like beautiful, handsome, cute, or elegant is the common way of describing someone’s outlook as a whole. Besides, you can talk about their dress as well as their overall build, height, complexion, age, face, eyes, nose, hands, mouth, teeth, lips, ears, hair, facial hair, body language, etc.
Are you looking for a book or a guide to help you learn and improve your English? You may try English Made Easy Volume One: A New ESL Approach: Learning English Through Pictures (Amazon Link).
How to Describe Someone’s General Appearance
To talk about someone’s general appearance, you should talk about their gender first. You can use some adjectives for both males and females to talk about their outer beauty as a whole. However, some gender-specific adjectives are also used to describe someone’s appearance.
Here are some example sentences that can help you understand the use of adjectives to talk about someone’s general appearance.
|so beautiful. |
|The boy |
|The man |
The above examples show how you can describe or compliment someone as a whole. It’s polite saying positive things about someone and avoid saying something that may humiliate them. We should not judge someone by their outer look rather, we must compliment their inner qualities.
Talking about DRESSES to Describe Someone’s Appearance
While describing someone’s appearance, talking about their dresses can help identify their fashion sense and cultural identity. In many cases, dresses can represent someone’s attitude and overall psychological state.
To talk about dresses, we usually start with the type of dress (shirts, pants, t-shirts, coats, etc.) the person is wearing. From the type of dress, we sometimes can understand whether the person is in a formal or informal setting.
Besides the type of someone’s clothes, we can also talk about other specific features of their dress, such as color, pattern, material, etc.
There are some adjectives to describe clothes. To learn about those adjectives and know different ways of describing someone’s dress, you might find another article titled How to Describe Clothes in English.
Describing BUILD to Talk About Someone’s Appearance
While describing someone’s appearance, talking about their overall build can help. You may mention whether the person is slim, muscular, or stocky. Don’t say anything that sounds offensive.
Politeness is the key quality of a good speaker during a conversation. Your choice of words is crucial to sound polite. You should not directly say that someone is fat. Here are some adjectives that you can use to sound polite while talking about someone’s overall build.
|Impolite: Skinny/Thin/Underweight |
The boy was skinny.
The girl was thin.
He was underweight.
The boy was slim
He was slender.
|Impolite: Fat/Tubby/Overweight |
The man was fat.
He was tubby.
She was overweight.
Polite: Stocky/Plump/On the heavier side
The man was on the heavier side.
He was stocky.
The boy is plump.
There are some other words that you can use to talk about someone’s overall build while describing their appearance. Here is a complete list of them.
|Build Types||Words/Adjectives |
Reference: Oxford Learner’s Dictionary
|Fat||Big-boned – A person with a larger-than-average build|
Chubby – slightly fat in a way that people usually find attractive
Obese – Someone very fat
Overweight – Someone too heavy
Paunchy – Having a fat stomach
Plump – Having a fully rounded shape
Podgy – slightly fat
Pot-bellied – Having a large stomach that sticks out
Stocky – Someone short with a strong, solid body
Stout – Someone of heavy build
|Thin||Lanky – Having long, thin arms and legs |
Petite – A woman who is small and thin
Skinny – (informal) Very thin, especially in a way that you find unpleasant or ugly
Slender – Thin in an attractive way
Slight – Small and thin in size
Slim – Thin in an attractive way
|Muscular||Beefy – Someone big or fat|
Broad – Wide
Buff – Someone in good physical shape with well-developed muscles
Burly – Physically big and strong, with large muscles
Ripped – (informal) Having strong muscles that you can see clearly
Well-built – Someone with a solid, strong body
Note: You should you the above word considering the setting: formal and informal. Avoid saying anything that may sound offensive.
How to Talk about Someone’s HEIGHT
Height is one of the very common features of someone’s outer look. You can easily describe someone’s appearance by saying whether s/he is tall, short, or medium height. There are a limited number of adjectives that you can use to talk about someone’s height. Here are some example sentences describing someone’s height.
- The candidate was very short but stout.
- He is short and thin.
- He is of average height.
- Her height is medium.
- He is very tall and muscular.
- She is tall and slim.
Talking about Someone’s COMPLEXION in English
The complexion is the color of someone’s skin. To describe someone’s physical appearance, you talk about their skin tone.
But remember! Don’t say anything that may promote racism and sound offensive or humiliating. The purpose of talking about someone’s complexion has to be only to describe their appearance, not to talk about their racial identity.
He is a list of words/adjectives that you can use to talk about someone’s complexion.
Reference: Oxford Learner’s Dictionary
|Black||People who have dark skin, especially whose ancestors came from Africa||The first person I met there was black.|
|Brown||People with skin color like earth or coffee.||Someone from your office, tall, stout, and with brown skin, delivered the parcel yesterday.|
|Dark||People having a skin color that is close to black||He was dark and handsome.|
|Fair||People with skin that is pale in color.||Her complexion was fair.|
|Pale||People with skin that is very light in color.||The girl I met at the café was tall, slim, and with a pale complexion.|
|Ruddy||A person’s face that looks red and healthy||He was ruddy.|
|Tanned||Someone with brown skin color.||She was tanned with long black hair.|
|White||People who have pale skin, especially those whose ancestors are from Europe.||The man I met was middle-aged white.|
Describing Someone’s AGE in English
Identifying someone’s age while describing someone’s appearance can help get an overall idea about the person. You can simply mention whether the person is young, middle-aged, or young. Here is a list of some words/phrases that you can use to talk about someone’s age.
|Elderly||Used as a polite word for “Old”||The passenger sitting beside me is an elderly person.|
|Middle-aged||A person who is neither young nor old||The shopkeeper was a middle-aged woman.|
|Old||Someone who has lived for a long time; no longer young||The man was too old to walk.|
|Teenager||A person who is between 13 and 19 years old||All the players on the team were teenagers.|
|Young||Someone who is not yet old||He sent a young boy to receive the parcel.|
There are different age groups ranging from infants to senior adults. Here is a chart that shows the age groups with the age range.
|Age range (Years)||Age group|
|40-59||Middle Age Adult|
|60 – Above||Senior Adult|
Alright! To many people, age is just a number, nothing more than that. However, in many cultures, asking about someone’s age may sound offensive, especially the age of women.
Well! If you still want to ask someone about their age without sounding impolite, you can check this article titled How to Ask Someone About Their Age.
How to Describe FACIAL FEATURES in English
While describing someone’s appearance, the face appears to be the most important part of one’s body. Face can be of different types. Due to geographical variation, we often notice variations in face patterns.
The shape of the Chinese people’s faces is different from that of Europeans. Even we notice variations in patterns of the face within the same race. A list of different shapes of faces is given below.
- Chubby (Plump and rounded)
- Craggy (Rugged and rough-textured)
Besides the overall face type, we can also talk about different parts of someone’s face while describing someone’s appearance.
The following table shows different parts of a face with their various types based on their shape or size.
|Different parts of a face||Types (Based on shape and size)|
Short and thick
Short and Narrow
Talking about Someone’s HAIR in English
There are different features of hair that you can talk about while describing someone’s hair. To describe someone’s hair precisely, you can talk about hair types, colors, styles, lengths, and conditions.
The table below shows different words to describe hair from different perspectives.
|Hair types||Hair colors||Hairstyles||Hair lengths||Hair conditions|
Remember! While describing someone’s hair, you must follow the order of adjectives. Length comes first, and then shape and color. Now let’s see how can we use those words in sentences. Here are some example sentences.
- She is a blonde. (If someone has blonde hair, you can call them blonde)
- The girl has got long, straight blonde hair.
- As far as I can remember, she was a brunette. (Someone with dark brown hair can be called a brunette)
- The girl has got short curly brown hair.
- The lady is a redhead. (If someone has red hair, you can call them a redhead)
- The lady has got short wavy red hair
- She has got curly medium-length grey hair.
- The man I met was completely bald.
How to Describe FACIAL HAIR in English
Besides having hair on their heads, men usually have hair on their faces, which is called facial hair. There can be two kinds of facial hair: beard and mustache.
Beard covers the chin and cheeks, and the mustache covers the space between the nostril and the upper lips. Beards and mustaches can be of different types and styles. The following table shows different types of beards and mustaches.
|Beard types||Mustache types|
I hope the above examples of words and expressions can help you describe someone’s appearance in English. Remember! Politeness is the key, no matter whom you talk to and who you talk about. Your choice of words, tone, and gestures must be polite and communicative.