Using synonyms to describe people

When talking about people, you will almost certainly need adjectives describing personality. Are the following adjectives positive, neutral or negative?

  • indecisive
  • open-minded
  • impatient
  • careful
  • trustworthy
  • selfish
  • optimistic
  • sociable
  • attentive
  • cheerful
  • ambitious
  • spontaneous
  • sensitive
  • hardworking
  • reserved
  • aggressive
  • impolite
  • moody
  • lazy
  • generous
  • caring

Be careful though! Some words can be positive, negative or neutral depending on context.

Now practice – use the words above to complete the sentences below:

He’s so (1)___________ – it can take him ages to make up his mind, but he loves parties and meeting people. He’s much more (2)___________ than me.
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(1) indecisive (2) sociable
He has good qualities, but sometimes he can be a little boring. He always has to consider things carefully before doing them. I’m a lot more (3)___________ – I just go ahead and do things and think about the consequences later.
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(3) spontaneous
I think we first became friends because he’s so (4)___________. You know, one of those people that always smiles no matter what. I can’t stand (5)___________ people – you never know what they are going to be like from one day to the next.
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(4) optimistic (5) moody
If I was talking about someone who had a great impact on me, it would probably be my father. He doesn’t like to be the centre of attention – it’s not that he’s shy, just a little (6)___________, but he’s so (7)_________. I can’t remember the last time he took a long holiday. Show answers
(6) reserved (7) hardworking
I liked the job, but I didn’t like my boss. He would never listen to any new ideas or consider new ways of doing things, and I think someone in his position should have been a lot more (8)___________.
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(8) open-minded

Since moving to another country, my character has changed quite a lot. I am an only child, so I suppose I was a little bit (9)___________, but since living in a flat with others, I’ve learned to share and think a little more about other people. That’s something I’ve learned from one of my flatmates – she’s a really (10)___________ person who always asks if I’ve had a good day and has time to talk if I’m feeling down.
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(9) selfish (10) caring
I recently met an old friend of mine, someone I had known at school, and we decided to go for lunch. Well, he spent the whole time telling me about his business plans, and how he was going to become more successful than anyone else. I suppose he’s just (11)___________ but he seemed really (12)___________, talking about how he was going to dominate the market and there was no room for anyone with a conscience. I don’t think I’ll meet up with him again.
(11) ambitious (12) aggressive

Here’s a complete answer from a Part Two topic card about someone the speaker has known for a long time:
Talking about people in the IELTS speaking test lesson 2

“Well, I’d like to talk about someone I’ve known for a long time. He actually used to be my next-door neighbour, but I didn’t really get to know him until we went to school together.

We used to study in the same English class when I was at high school, so I guess I’ve know him for about…it must be seven years now. He was always a much better student than me – he let me copy his homework quite a few times, but that’s not really how we became friends.

To be honest, it’s hard to say exactly why we are friends – we don’t share the same interests, apart from basketball. He’s happy to spend his evenings in front of a computer playing games while I’d rather watch a movie. Sometimes I think I’m a television addict! Anyway, despite our differences, he’s a very genuine person. I mean, he’s honest and direct, and that means we can have some very interesting conversations on all types of subjects.

As I mentioned, he was always a better student than me and he seems to know a lot about the world, so we can spend hours just chatting. I think that’s important in a friend, but to add another reason, I would have to say that he is very generous.
I don’t necessarily mean with money, I mean that he’s a very giving person who goes out of his way to make people feel comfortable. I think that’s mainly why I feel he is important to me. Either way, I imagine we’ll be friends for a long time.”

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