Describing People's Appearance in English - Visual Vocabulary Lesson


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He’s well-built, with broad shoulders.

He’s very muscular.

Well-builtmeans big, but big because of muscle, not fat.

The opposite of well-built isskinny’.

You can sayHe’s very muscularorHe’s very muscly’.

They have the same meaning.

There are other ways to say the same thing; for example, ‘He looks strong.’

She’s in good shape.

She has an athletic physique.

She’s in good shapehas the same meaning asShe’s fit.’

Fitdescribes someone who exercises regularly and is very strong.

Conversationally, in British English, ‘fitmeansattractive’.

It can be used for men and women.

The wordphysiquemeans the shape and condition of your body.

Physiqueis most often used with positive adjectives to describe someone who is strong,

or who has an attractive body.

For example, the collocationsmuscular physiqueandstrong physiqueare


He’s skinny.

He has a slight build.

What’s the opposite offat’?

Actually, there are several words.

Thinis the basic word.

Slimis similar; it meansthin and attractive’.

Skinnyis a more negative word.

It suggests that someone is *too* thin.

If you say that someone is skinny, it means you think they should eat more.

Yourbuildis the shape of your body: whether youre broad or thin, whether youre

muscular or not, and so on.

You can use many different adjectives withbuild’.

Common ones aremedium build’, ‘slim build’, ‘proportionate buildandstocky


Stockymeans big or wide, usually with muscle rather than fat.

He’s overweight.

He has a gut.

Overweightis a more indirect word thanfat’, although neither is polite if you

are talking directly to someone.

A gut means a big stomach.

You might use it to describe someone who has a lot of extra weight on their stomach.

You could also sayHe has a big belly’, which has the same meaning.

He has chiselled features, with high cheekbones.

He has very well-defined facial features.

This is a chisel.

It’s a tool which is used to carve stone, for example to make a sculpture or statue.

Chiselled featuresmeans that someone’s facial features are very attractive and clearly-defined,

like a statue.

It’s generally used for men’s faces.

Well-definedis similar, but can be used for men or women.

If your facial features are well-defined, then your cheekbones, jaw, chin and so on

have a clear shape.

This has a positive meaning, although it doesn’t necessarily meanattractive’.

He has crow’s feet.

He has faint wrinkles in his forehead.

As you get older, youll get lines or wrinkles in your face.

Crow’s feet are the patterns of wrinkles you get in the corner of your eyes.

Wrinkles can befaint’ – light and difficult to seeordeep’.

She has dimples when she smiles.

She has freckles on her nose and cheeks.

Dimpleshere means small holes in your cheeks which appear when you smile.

Not everyone has them.

Although it’s not common, you can use the worddimpleto refer to similar holes

in other places.

For example, some people have a dimple on their chin.

Freckles are common among people with very light skin.

Going out into the sun can make your skin more freckled.

She has a round face, with a high forehead.

She has a double chin.

You can use many adjectives to describe the shape of someone’s face, such as: round,

thin, symmetrical, long, or square.

If someone is overweight, they might have a double chin.

He has a goatee.

He’s going grey.

Goateeis a common word; it’s a beard which covers your chin and upper lip only.

You can also have a full beard, which covers your whole face and neck.

There are many words for different styles of beard, but most of them are not commonly

used, except by beard experts.

If you sayhe’s going grey’, ‘goingmeansbecoming’.

You can usegoin this way for changes in someone’s hair; for examplego grey

orgo bald’.

You can also use it if someone’s face changes colour.

For exampleShe went bright redorHe went pale when he heard the news’.

He has curly black hair.

She has thick shoulder-length curly hair.

Curlydescribes hair with tight curls.

What’s the opposite?

The opposite isstraight hair’.

In the middle, you can havewavy hair.’

For length, you can say hair is long, short, medium length, or shoulder length.

For very long hair, you might say something likeHer hair reached down to her waist’.

He’s bald, with a thick beard.

She has long blonde hair.

Baldonly refers to people who have lost their hair, usually because of aging.

If someone shaves their hair off, you can sayHe has a shaved head’.

Hair can be thick or thin; you can use these adjectives for hair on your head, or for facial

hair: beards and moustaches.

When talking about hair, be careful with adjective order.

Adjectives likelong’, ‘short’, ‘thickorthingo before the colour.

So, you can havelong brown hair’, ‘thick dark hair’, ‘short fair hair’, and so


He has fair hair.

His hair is shaved short at the back and sides, and swept to one side on top.

Fair hairis similar toblond hair’, but is has a wider meaning.

Fairjust meanslight’, so it could include light brown hair or dark blond hair.

Sweepgenerally means to clean your floor with a broom.

However, you can also use it for hair, especially when you push your hair in one direction.

You can sweep your hair to one side, sweep your hair into a ponytail, or sweep your hair


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