Positive traits and characteristics
- (to be) as brave as a lion
Meaning: someone who is very brave or courageous
Example: Tom’s as brave as a lion, he didn’t even hesitate to confront the thief who tried to steal my wallet.
- (to be) as cool as a cucumber
Meaning: someone who acts very calm in a difficult or serious situation.
Example: Mark is always as cool as a cucumber, even when he is under a lot of pressure.
- (to be) down to earth
Meaning: someone who is very sensible, realistic, practical, thinks logically and rationally. Maybe the opposite of someone who ‘has their head in the clouds’.
Example: Karen’s really sensible and realistic, she’s really down to earth.
He is a really down to earth kind of guy.
She’s got a really down to earth personality.
- (to be) easy-going
Meaning: similar to laid back. Someone who is not easily worried, upset or annoyed.
Example: Ryan’s a very easy-going guy. Nothing seems to bother him too much.
- (to be) a go-getter
Meaning: someone who is proactive, determined and works hard to achieve what they want.
Example: Christine is a real go-getter, she’ll do whatever it takes to work her way to the top of her company.
- (to be) good company
Meaning: someone who is fun or pleasant to be around and spend time with.
Example: Jane’s really good company. I always have a great time when we hang out together.
- (to be) a good laugh
Meaning: someone who is funny and entertaining to be around.
Example: My best friend Amanda is a real good laugh. She’s always got a lot of funny stories to tell when we catch up.
- (to be) a knight in shining armour
Meaning: someone who helps or saves you when you have a problem
Example: Alex is a real knight in shining armour, he helped me to move house when no one else could.
- (to be) laid-back
Meaning: someone who behaves in a very relaxed way, nothing seems to bother them.
Example: I guess I would describe myself as being pretty laid back. I don’t get upset or
worried very easily.
- (to have) nerves of steel
Meaning: someone is able to stay calm in a difficult or dangerous situation, or when under a lot of pressure
Example: John’s got nerves of steel. He looked so calm when the robber pointed a gun at his face
- (to be) open-minded
Meaning: someone who is willing to listen to, or is accepting of, other people’s ideas and
opinions, even if they are different to their own beliefs.
Example: One of the reasons that I really respect Greg is because he is so open-minded.
- (to be) as sweet as honey | sugar
Meaning: someone who acts in a very sweet, nice or gentle manner.
Example: Mary is one of the nicest people I know, she’s as sweet as sugar.
- (to be) up-and-coming
Meaning: someone or something that is advancing in its field and is likely to be a success
Example: John is an up-and-coming star. He’s been staring in a lot of films lately and is gaining a lot of popularity amongst movie critics.
Mike’s café is said to be the next up-and-coming chain of coffee stores around the country
- (to have) vim and vigour
Meaning: someone who has a lot of energy and enthusiasm
Example: Tom is full of vim and vigour. He’s always so excited and enthusiastic about
- (to be) young at heart
Meaning: someone who is getting older, but still feels and acts young
Example: Even though Bob is in his 60’s, he’s still young at heart. He’s always wanting to play football with his grandkids.
Negative traits and characteristics
- (to be) a bad egg
Meaning: someone who is dishonest or behaves badly
Example: Little Johnny is a real bad egg. He’s always misbehaving at school and causing
problems with other students.
- (to be) big-headed
Meaning: someone who thinks they are very important, or better than others
Example: I don’t want to sound big-headed, but I was definitely the smartest kid in school.
- (to be) a big mouth
Meaning: someone who isn’t able to keep a secret.
Example: Jenny is such a big mouth! She wasn’t supposed to tell you about the surprise party that I had planned for you.
- (to be) a busybody
Meaning: someone who is interested in other people’s personal business, particularly things that do not involve them.
Example: My mum is such a busybody, always trying to listen in to my private conversations with my friends, trying to find out what we are talking about.
- (to be) a cold fish
Meaning: someone who shows little or no emotion, and may be very unsympathetic.
Example: John didn’t show any sympathy for Max when his girlfriend broke up with him. He can be a real cold fish sometimes.
- (to be) a chatterbox
Meaning: a person who talks a lot
Example: James is such a chatterbox, sometimes he just never shuts up!
- (to be) as cunning as a fox
Meaning: someone is very cunning, deceitful or maybe untrustworthy. Someone who plans
things in order to get what they want.
Example: I really don’t trust Tony, he’s always trying to trick people. He’s as cunning as a fox.
- (to be) a fair-weather friend
Meaning: someone who is only your friend when things are going well for you, but not when you really need help.
Example: Kyle’s only a fair-weather friend. Last month when I desperately needed help, he wouldn’t even reply to my messages.
- (to be) full of hot air
Meaning: someone who talks a lot but doesn’t say anything worthwhile, or talks about things they don’t really know about, or exaggerates the truth
Example: Don’t listen to Matt, he’s full of hot air. You can’t trust a word that he says.
- (to be) full of yourself
Meaning: Someone who is overconfident, and thinks they are very special or important
(similar to big-headed)
Example: Carl is so full of himself these days. He just never shuts about his latest achievements.
- (to be) as greedy as a pig
Meaning: someone is very greedy and has a desire for things, particularly for food.
Example: Shannon ate that whole chocolate cake herself and didn’t save any for anyone else.
She’s as greedy as a pig sometimes!
- (to be) narrow-minded
Meaning: someone who is unwilling to accept or listen to other people’s ideas or opinions. (opposite of open-minded)
Example: I really can’t stand narrow-minded people. It’s one of the qualities that I really hate in other people.
- (to be) a nosy parker
Meaning: similar to a busybody. Someone who asks a lot of questions trying to find out
information about someone’s personal life.
Example: My next door neighbour is such a nosy parker, always asking me questions trying to find out about my personal life.
- (to be) a pain in the neck
Meaning: someone or something that is highly annoying
Example: Jerry is an absolute pain in the neck. He’s always interfering with my work, I can’t get nothing done when he’s around.
TV commercials these days are a real pain in the neck, there’s more commercials
than TV shows!
- (to be) pig-headed
Meaning: someone who is extremely stubborn, and unwilling to change their opinions, even if they know they are wrong
Example: Chris is so pig-headed. He still thinks women should be housewives only.
- (to be) set in his | her ways
Meaning: someone who doesn’t like changing their habits.
Example: My grandfather is quite old now and set in his ways. It’s really difficult to try to
change his view on things.
- (to have) a short fuse
Meaning: someone who gets angry easily, or loses their temper quickly.
Example: When I was young I had to be careful around my father, he had a really short fuse. If I did something wrong, he would get really mad.
- (to be) a slave driver
Meaning: someone who makes their employees or other people work really hard.
Example: My boss is a real slave driver, he’s always making us stay back at work late.
- (to be) as slippery as an eel
Meaning: someone who is cunning, deceitful or untrustworthy, and possibly difficult to catch(e.g. a criminal)
Example: I really don’t trust that guy, he’s as slippery as an eel.
The police haven’t been able to catch the criminal yet, he seems to be as slippery as an
- (to be) a smart arse
Meaning: someone who tries to be funny or clever but is actually just annoying and/or rude
Example: Matthew’s a real smart arse these days. Always talking rudely to his teachers, trying to make others laugh.
- (to be) as stubborn as a mule
Meaning: to describe someone is very stubborn, or has a strong determination to not change
their attitude towards something.
Example: Even though he knows smoking is really bad for his health, he won’t stop. He’s as stubborn as a mule sometimes
- (to be) a wet blanket
Meaning: a person who says or does something that stops others from having fun or enjoying themselves.
Example: Kate’s always ruining my fun by being so negative all the time, she can be such a wet blanket sometimes.
- (to be) a wolf in sheep’s clothing
Meaning: someone that appears or acts like a good person but is actually bad.
Example: I think the new president is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It appears like he has good
intentions, but I think he doesn’t care about what the people want.
- (to have) a yellow streak
Meaning: someone who has a tendency to act cowardly or not be very brave
Example: Shauna has a bit of a yellow streak, she always scared of everything!
- (to be) yellow-bellied
Meaning: to be cowardly (similar to a yellow streak)
Example: He’s such a yellow-bellied fool. Always running away from any little problem in life.
- (to be) a yes-man
Meaning: someone who says ‘yes’ to everything or agrees with everything people say, even when they don’t really agree, but usually just to please people.
Example: Jack will agree with anything you say, he’s a bit of a yes-man.
Useful Expressions: Describing People (Part 2)
Useful Expressions: Describing People (Part 3)
Useful Expressions: Describing People (Part 4)