Top Tips for IELTS

Personality idioms words and phrases

These personality idioms words and phrases are to help you describe people and their characters in speaking. You’ll find there is a mix of more common adjectives, some idioms and more descriptive phrases. This is because when we describe someone we don’t normally just use a few adjectives we also describe how they behave.

Someone you admire

a role model – someone you want to be like

someone to look up to – someone you admire

be an inspiration (to) – be the sort of person other people want to be like

a natural leader – someone who other people will follow

lead by example – set a good example for others to follow

She’s always been my role model and someone I’ve looked up to. I think it’s her ability to inspire people that I admire most as she’s a natural leader. Although in fact she’s fairly quiet and doesn’t say much but just leads by example. 

Someone who is funny

have a good/keen sense of humour – to know when something is funny

be witty – be clever and funny

be able to make people laugh/smile –

be able to laugh at yourself (and not just others) 

be a great storyteller/raconteur 

(like) to see the funny side – will laugh even when the situation is serious/bad

Amy has a really good sense of humour – she’s not just a great storyteller, she’s also able to laugh at herself and make other people see the funny side of serious situations. Lots of times she manages to break the tension by making people smile at what’s going on.

Someone who is clever

smart cookie (I) – an idiom for someone who is clever

sharp – another clever idiom – able to see the main point

a straight A student –  someone who did well at school

always one step ahead – an idiom for someone who is clever in a more practical way

able to see the big picture – someone who understands the complete situation and doesn’t get confused by details

My brother’s definitely a smart cookie – one of the most intelligent people I know. He wasn’t in fact a straight A student at school but he’s really sharp and always seems to be one step ahead of everyone else. Most people I know get confused and but he’s always able to see the big picture and he invariably makes the right choices.

Someone who is caring/tolerant

open-minded/tolerant – willing to accept other people’s beliefs

always sees both sides of the argument  – someone who will look at other points of view

laid back/easy-going – someone who doesn’t get easily upset and likes to get on with other people – sometimes a less positive characteristic

be helpful – nothing is ever too much trouble – someone who will do things to help even if it is not convenient

considerate  – think about the needs of other people

generous to a fault – be extremely generous

One of Peter’s best qualities is that he’s so open-minded – he deals with everyone equally no matter what their background and he’ll sit and listen to their problems. His door is always open and nothing is ever too much trouble for him and he’s forever helping someone out with something. 

Someone who is friendly/optimistic

sociable – outgoing

get on well with people – be good at relationships

life and soul of the party – the sort of person who is lively at parties

good company – someone who other people enjoy being around

has a wide circle of friends – has a lot of friends

likes to be the centre of attention – can be a more negative comment for someone who is self-centred

always sees the bright side – an optimist

Andrea is quite different from me – perhaps that’s why we get on so well. While I’m quite quiet she’s really outgoing and the life and the soul of the party. She’s great company and people just love to be around her and she has a really wide circle of friends. Her best quality is that she’s so positive and always looks on the bright side of things. 

Someone who is quiet

a wall flower – an idiom for someone who doesn’t participate in parties much – generally a negative phrase

keep yourself to yourself – to prefer to be alone

be a private person – not to go out much

not much of a social butterfly –  a social butterfly is someone who enjoys parties and going out – perhaps too much

have a small circle of friends – have fewer friends

I wouldn’t say that she’s a wallflower exactly but she does like to keep herself to herself and isn’t much of a social butterfly. You rarely see her at parties and I think she’s just a fairly private person who prefers to have a smallish circle of friends.

Someone who is ambitious

wants to get ahead in life/ wants to make something of themselves – someone who is ambitious

driven/motivated – someone who tires hard to achieve things

determined – someone who is prepared to work hard for what they want

single -minded – someone who is focused on their goals and doesn’t get distracted

a real go-getter – an idiom for someone who is proactive and works for what they want

career minded/ put your job first – the job is more important than family or friends

be married to your job – 

I guess he’s the most ambitious person I know – he’s very driven and has always wanted to make something of himself. Even at school he was career minded and you could see that he would end up running a big business – and it’s not really a surprise now that he’s married to his job.

Someone who is realistic/sympathetic

self-possessed – someone who isn’t affected too much by others and remains calm and confident

have her head screwed on – an idiom for someone who is intelligent in a practical way

be a very grounded person/keep both feet on the ground – someone who doesn’t get carried away by their emotions

keep things in perspective/proportion – be able to see how important things really are – often when there is a problem

be sensible – be intelligent in a practical way

be a good listener – someone who will listen to other people and just let them talk about their problems

know the right thing to say – give good advice to people with problems

Whenever I have a problem I go to Gina – she’s extremely sensible and you can rely on her for some clear and realistic advice. She’s always seems to know the right thing to say and she’s a great listener too. She just seems to know what’s important in life and is very grounded – I’ve never known her to get carried away.

Someone who is stylish/individual

have a sense of style – have your own ideas about what is fashionable and not do/wear what is trendy/popular

have a good eye for – an idiom for someone who can see what is stylish

have good taste – be able to judge what is stylish

be a fashionista/fashion victim – be someone who will buy all the latest clothes

a real individual – someone who has their own sense of style and doesn’t follow what other people like

not follow the pack/crowd – do or think what most other people think because it is popular

a trendsetter – be the sort of person who is the first to do something

Patricia is the most stylish person I know – she just has excellent taste. I wouldn’t say that she is trendy or particularly fashionable but she always seems to wear the right clothes for the occasion – she has great taste.

Someone who is mature/reliable

responsible – someone who knows their duty

conscientious – takes time and trouble to do what they need to do

mature – not just a question of age but attitude

have an old head on young shoulders – be more mature even if they are young

trustworthy – someone who you can trust

someone you can bank on – someone you can rely on

always there for you – someone who you can rely on

be level-headed/not lose your head – not panic if there is a problem or get carried away their emotions

able to keep calm in a crisis 

Annabelle is the most responsible person I know and is really trustworthy – if you ask her to do something you can be sure she’ll get it done. You can just bank on her. More than that she’s very level-headed and never gets carried away but will stay calm in a crisis. She’s a great person to have around when things go wrong.

Someone who is strongminded

have a strong character/be strong-willed – do what you want even when there is opposition

assertive – someone who is confident enough to say what they want

have/get your own way – make other people do what you want

be a force of nature – have a very strong character and be able to make other people do what you want even against their will

never takes no for an answer – someone who is not put off by opposition

doesn’t let the grass grow under her feet – someone who takes immediate action

direct – someone who is honest and clear and does not worry too much about politeness – can be a negative term

always get straight to the point – be direct  in the way you speak

call a spade a spade – an idiom  for someone who is direct

Alice is certainly an assertive character and she almost gets her own her way – there are very few people who are able to stand up to her. I suppose you could almost say she’s like a force of nature in this respect. And while I do admire her for strength of mind there are times when she won’t take no for an answer and won’tt compromise at all and  this can make her difficult to deal with. 

Family people

a typical family man – someone who prefers to spend his time at home with his family

put your family first – the family is more important than career

very maternal – the quality of a mother – be caring and supportive

be a chip of the old block – be very similar to your mother/father

Practice and more resources to help you

If you want to practice your skills then you can look at the sample speaking questions about people here.

part 2 speaking questions

You may also want to look at the vocabulary I have for relationships

relationship vocabulary 

family vocabulary



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