Describing people: appearance and
Adjectives connected with size, weight and general appearance
She introduced me to a tall, slender woman who looked very serious. [thin in an attractive way]
He was too scrawny to be a football player. [unattractively thin and bony-looking]
A lanky teenager walked in. [very tall and thin, and usually moving awkwardly]
A gangling/gangly youth approached him. [tall, with long, thin arms and legs and rather awkward
movements; often used of men and boys]
Recent studies show that an increasing number of children are obese. [very fat, in an unhealthy way]
She's the rather stout woman wearing glasses over there. [with a quite large, solid body; used of men and women]
My grandfather was a stocky man with big hands and broad shoulders. [short and with a body that is
wide across the shoulders and chest]
Aspects of appearance and complexion
Guess who I bumped into the other day? Our old college mate, Rob Parsons! First thing I noticed was he's really
bulked up1 (he used to be so lean2 and wiry 3, didn't he?) but also that he still looks so unkempt4. His sister
was always the opposite – never a hair out of place5 and immaculate6 clothes, remember? But they were
different in appearance too, weren't they? He has a rather swarthy7 complexion: his sister's was more sallow8.
I must say he looked a bit haggard9 and exhausted too. He's probably working too hard. Anyway, how are things
i* ncreased in body size, especially by gaining
thin and healthy 3 thin but strong
* untidy, scruffy (the opposite would be smart or
neat; "kempt" does not exist)
always well-dressed, neat and smart-looking
6 in perfect condition, smart
7 dark-coloured, used about skin
9 his face looked ill and tired
A: What are you grinning at? [giving a big smile]
B: You"ve got ice cream on your nose – it looks so funny!
Look at those models pouting for the photographers! [positioning their lips in an attractive way]
She said if her daughter doesn't get what she wants, she pouts for the rest of the day. [positions her lips
in a look of annoyance]
You don't have to grimace every time I eat raw garlic. I happen to think it's delicious. [make an
expression of pain or strong dislike]
I arrived late and she just scowled at me. [gave a bad-tempered, angry look]
He was leering at us. I felt very uncomfortable and wanted to leave. [looking in an unpleasant, sexually
Mannerisms and actions
I asked him for advice but he just shrugged his shoulders. [lifted his shoulders up and down to show he
didn't know or couldn't answer]
He folded his arms and crossed his legs and waited for me to speak. [crossed one arm over the other
close to his body] [crossed one leg over the other while sitting]
He sat there twitching nervously as he waited for his interview. [suddenly making small movements]
She bites her nails all the time. It drives me crazy!
She clenched her fist and told him to get out of the room at once. [closed her hand tightly because of anger]
He just kept tapping/drumming his fingers on the table, looking impatient. [made quick, light
Rewrite these sentences using words from A opposite instead of the underlined words.
She looks as if she needs a good meal; her body is so thin and bony.
Martha and David are both rather tall and thin individuals.
Being extremely fat can have health risks.
A very tall, thin, bony, awkward-looking boy carried our bags for us.
Her new silk dress suited her thin frame.
A short man with broad shoulders offered to lift the stone so we could look underneath.
That solid-looking woman on the left of the photo is Charlie's wife.
Fill in the gaps in the sentences using words from B opposite.
1 Finn looked really
after two weeks of camping – his clothes were dirty and his hair
was a mess!
2 Leah always looks amazing – she never has a
out of place!
3 Alex has
a lot – must be all that time he spends at the gym lifting weights!
4 Dan hasn't slept for three days – he looks really tired and
What are these people doing?
He's folding his arms.
Answer these questions. Use a dictionary if necessary.
The verb to pout has two meanings on the opposite page. What are they?
If someone scowls at you, how are they probably feeling?
What is the difference between a swarthy complexion and a sallow complexion?
When would you clench your fist?
When do people normally shrug their shoulders?
What might you do with your fingers on a table if you were nervous or impatient?
In what situations do people typically (a) fold their arms, (b) cross their legs?
If someone is "lean and wiry", which of these adjectives are true of them: thin, fat, healthy, weak,