How to Describe Physical Appearance

In this lesson you will find everything that you need to know to describe your own physical appearance and the appearance of others.

Physical characteristics are defined in the following way

Physical characteristics are defining traits or features about your body. These are aspects that are visually apparent, knowing nothing else about the person. The first thing you see when you look at someone could be their hair, clothes, nose, or figure. These are all examples of physical characteristics.

Examples of Physical Characteristics. – Your Dictionary

Describing physical appearance is one of the common topics that you will study since the topic is found in the most used English textbooks.

What You Need to Know

In order to describe physical appearance in English, you need to manage each one of the sub-topics well.

  • Physical Appearance Vocabulary
  • Simple Present
  • Present Continuous

When you know those topics, you can make sentences like this:

  • She is beautiful
  • She has beautiful eyes
  • She is wearing a white shirt
  • He is wearing black earrings and a cap

Now let’s check some considerations when describing physical appearance before exploring the topic any further.

Considerations when Describing the Physical Appearance

We have to be really careful when we describe other people’s physical appearance since some descriptions might be considered impolite or offensive to some people.

Whether the description is accurate people might take it the wrong way when referring to the height, body shape or size.

We have to be really careful when the examples that we use, sometimes people learning a language might use words such as ugly, fat, chubby with the sole intent to offend or make fun of people and classmates.

Vocabulary to Describe Physical Appearance

This is key vocabulary to describe physical appearance divided into the most important categories:

  • Height
  • Build
  • Hair
  • Eyes
  • Type of Hair
  • General
  • Clothing

Physical Appearance: Height

These are some common expressions to talk about the height in English

TallHe is quite tall
Very TallMike is very tall
ShortHe is very short
Medium HeightShe is medium height

Physical Appearance: Build

These are some of the most common words to describe people

SkinnyShe is skinny
BigThat guy is big
ThinHe is slim
FatShe is fat
OverweightHe is overweight
SlimMy brother is slim
ObeseHe is obese
MuscularHe is muscular
FitShe looks fit
AthleticHe is very athletic

Physical Appearance: Hair

These are some common expressions and words to describe hair color in English

BlondeShe is blonde
Brown hairShe has brown hair
Red hairHe has red hair
Black hairBoth of them have black hair
Grey hairShe has grey hair

Physical Appearance: Eyes

These are some common expressions to describe eyes in English

Grey eyesShe has grey eyes
Green eyesMy sons have green eyes
Blue eyesI have  blue eyes
Brown eyesHe has brown eyes
Dark eyesI have dark eyes

Physical Appearance: Type of Hair

These are some common expressions to describe type of hair in English

Long hairShe has long hair
Short hairHe has short hair
Wavy hairShe has wavy hair
Curly hairHer hair is curly
Straight hairShe has straight hair

Physical Appearance: General

These are some expression to describe physical appearance in General Terms

BeautifulShe is very beautiful
HandsomeHe is very handsome

Appearance: Clothing

When you are describing people’s appearance, some people might consider that describing what they are wearing is a good idea.

JeansShe is wearing black jeans
PantsHe is wearing black pants and a white shirt
SkirtShe is wearing a blue skirt and a white shirt

Grammar to Describe Physical Appearance

These are two of the basic structures to describe physical appearance

Physical Appearance with the Verb to Be

Examples of affirmative and negative sentences with the verb to be

I am handsomeI am not that handsome
He is a very good- looking guyHe isn’t good-looking at all
She is tallShe is tall
We are in shapeWe aren’t in shape
They are skinnyThey aren’t skinny

Examples of questions about physical appearance and the verb to be

Are you in shape?yes, I am
Is she tall?Yes, she is
is he beautiful?
Yes, he is
Are they skinny?Yes, they are
Is she tall?Yes, she is

Physical Appearance with the Verb to Have

These are some examples of affirmative and negative sentences with the verbo to have

I have blue eyesI don’t have blue eyes
She has long hairShe doesn’t have long hair
He has black hairHe doesn’t have black hair
It has black furIt doesn’t have black fur
We have green eyesWe don’t have green eyes
They have short hairThey don’t have short hair
You have brown eyesYou don’t have brown eyes

Examples of  Questions about physical appearance and the verb to have

Do you have green eyes? No, I don’t / Yes, I do
Does she have blue eyes? No, She doesn’t / Yes, She does
Does he have short hair? No, He doesn’t / Yes, He does
Do they have green eyes? No, They don’t / Yes, They do
Do we have black hair? No, We don’t / Yes, we do
Do you have short hair? No, I don’t / Yes, I do

Dialogue about Physical Appearance

This is a dialogue about people describing people physical appearance using some of the vocabulary and structures used above

  • Maria: Look who is over there?
  • John: Who?
  • Maria: It is Jessica from highschool
  • John: What does she look like? I don’t remember her
  • Maria: It is the one with long wavy hear.
  • John: She looks beautiful
  • Maria: Let’s go to say hi to her
  • John:  Of course

Lesson Plan – Describe Physical Appearance

Schema Activation

  1. Teacher plays You are Beautiful by Ed Sheeran
  2. Studens are given pieces of paper  with the lyrics.
  3. They have to identify what students has the first part of the lyrics, the second part of the lyris until they find the last part.


These are several pre-task activities, choose the one that you consider appropiate for the level of your students and time constraints.

Task #1

  1. Teacher reviews the vocabulary necessary to describe physical appearance using a Quizlet set.
  2. Students open the quizlet set andc check the spelling and pronunciation of words.
  3. Students quiz their classmates about the vocabulary in it.

Task #2

  1. Students are given three sentences with scrambled words.
  2. Students have to unscramble the words to make a sentence
  3. Student turn the sentence into a question.
    • She has curly hair = Does she have curly hair?
    • She is beautiful = Is she beautiful?

Task #3

  1. Students answer a survey about personal appearance with questions like this 
    •  do you have black hair?
  2. Once they have the answers, they report their answers by saying:
    • she has black hair / she doesn’t have black hair

Task #4

  1. Students make groups.
  2. They are given a sheet with ten sentences to one group member
  3. That member read the sentence aloud
  4. Group members indicate if the sentence is true or false for them
  5. Students who indicate that the sentence isn’t true for them make a sentence that represents them better.

Task #5

To test the listening skills of your students, you can consider some of these listening tasks:

  1. A2: Listening – Describing People
  2. B1: Listening – Describing People

Main Task

If you want students to produce, create a Powerpoint Presentation and add pictures of celebrities such as famous musicians, singers and other artists. Try to include celebrities that they like so they enjoy the task even more. Take the following considerations:

  1. Include good-quality pictures.
  2. Include one picture per slide
  3. make sure the celebrities have different traits.

Ask the students to describe the people in the slides, make sure they give at least three characteristics so they use most of the vocabulary you taught.


  1.  Students answer a short quiz about grammar related to physical appearance


  1. Spend some time dealing with pronunciation so students don’t make too many mistakes during practice time.
  2. Make sure students don’t start using the new vocabulary to call their classmates names. Sometimes students use words like fat and obese  to offend a classmate.

More English Lessons

There are more English that you might want to check before you leave

  1. How to Talk about Holidays in the ESL Classroom
  2. A Guide to Greetings and Introductions
  3. How to Describe My Dream House
  4. How to Describe Things in English
  5. How To Make a Reservation in English
  6. How to Talk about Movies in English
  7. How To Make Comparisons in English
Jose Manuel Campos N - English Professor

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I am Jose Manuel, English professor and creator of, a blog whose mission is to share content and lessons for those who want to learn and improve their English