Describing people: personality and
Adjectives to describe people's personality or behaviour
acts on a sudden idea without
thinking first (often negative)
She's so impetuous; I wish she would consider
things before acting.
similar to impetuous, but can be
used in a more positive way
His impulsive generosity led him to give money to
anyone who asked for help.
gives exaggerated expression of
pleasure, praise or gratitude
She always gives me such an effusive welcome
when I visit her.
easily excited by things
He's a very excitable child; he needs to calm down.
always selfishly promoting your
own position or interests; informal
She's so pushy; it's typical of her to demand a pay
rise for herself and not care about the rest of us.
nervous or uncomfortable
because you know what people
think about you or your actions
Freddie seemed self-conscious and uncomfortable
when he had to make the announcement at
calm and reasonable and showing
The teacher said Maddy was a well-balanced child
who got on well at school.
reserved or says very little
He was a bit taciturn when I first met him. He
hardly said a word.
Chloe's such an introvert. Her brother Mark is so outgoing and is such an extrovert. Strange,
isn't it? [inward-looking and quiet] [energetic and friendly, finds it easy to be with others] [outward-looking,
energetic and sociable]
Mr Rogers is such a diffident man. He seems to have quite low self-esteem. [lacks confidence] [has a
low opinion of himself]
English people are traditionally thought of as rather reserved. [not immediately sociable]
Eva tends to be rather aloof. I don't know if she's just shy. [unfriendly and not sociable]
My aunt Annie can be very haughty and disdainful at times, but she's lovely really. [unfriendly and
thinks herself better than others] [does not believe others deserve respect]
I"ve always found Professor Mactoft very unapproachable, but his colleague Dr O"Daly is very
approachable. [not easy to be sociable with or start a conversation with] [the opposite]
Natasha is very conceited and self-important, but Rachel is such a modest person. [thinks herself
wonderful] [has an exaggerated sense of her importance] [prefers not to exaggerate her own qualities]
Joe is always so polite and respectful. I wish he would be more informal and just treat me as
his equal. [treating someone well and politely, often with admiration]
Arjen is a somewhat naive person; he thinks love can solve all the world's problems. [/naɪˈiːv/ willing
to believe simple things, perhaps because of inexperience]
Telephone salespeople often take advantage of gullible people. [easily deceived]
My father was a very conscientious man; he never took time off work unless he was really sick.
[/ˌkɒntʃiˈentʃəs/ always took his work very seriously]
She's a restless individual. I don't think she"ll ever settle down in a job. [not satisfied with what she is
doing now and wanting something new]
You are so obstinate and pig-headed! Why don't you listen when people give you advice? [unwilling
to change, despite persuasion] [similar to obstinate but stronger; informal]
Answer these questions.
Why would people rather have an approachable teacher or boss than an unapproachable one?
What is a stronger and less formal way of saying obstinate?
If someone is diffident, do they have little or lots of self-confidence?
How could you describe a greeting from someone that showed exaggerated pleasure?
Do you think it would be easy or difficult to have a friendly conversation with a taciturn person?
Which tends to be more negative, impetuous or impulsive?
Which would most people rather be described as, conscientious or self-conscious?
If you"re outgoing, are you more likely to be seen as an introvert or an extrovert?
Rewrite the underlined parts of the sentences using the words in the box, making any
other changes necessary.
restless well-balanced aloof conceited haughty
excitable naive self-esteem
Don't be so over-proud of your achievements! You"re not the only one to get an A-grade!
People who have a poor opinion of themselves can find it difficult to achieve their goals.
He's generally a happy, sociable sort of person.
She is a person who is generally quite reasonable and who shows good judgement overall.
You always seem unable to settle down. What's the problem?
He's so easily excited. He should try to calm down more.
She believes rather simple things when it comes to politics.
He's just pursuing his own interests and cares little what happens to others.
Frances was very unfriendly and would not take part in things at the party.
At times, Joel is quite cold and unfriendly and acts as if he's better than the rest of us.
Complete the table. Some of the words are not on the opposite page.
These sentences contain words from the table in 10.3. Rewrite the sentences using the
other form of the word. For example, use a noun instead of an adjective and vice versa.
One of her main character traits is that she is impetuous.
It's difficult to get him to change his ways. He displays a high level of obstinacy.
Luke shows a lot of reserve, but his wife is known more for her approachability.
One of her nicest characteristics is that she is modest.
She shows a lot of respect for her elders. It's important in her culture.
Being pig-headed seems to be a family trait among my relatives.
She is so full of self-importance; it irritates everyone.
Online identity thieves prey on people being gullible.
Over to you
Choose five words that you feel describe you. Be honest!