How to Describe Someone’s Face in English

I received an email recently asking me how to describe someone’s face in English.

You could be asked to describe someone’s face in conversation, if talking to the police, or to help someone recognise another person.

If you are planning to take the IELTS test, this could be a question that comes up. The examiner might ask you to introduce someone in part one, and this would be the perfect opportunity to describe someone’s face.

But even in general day-to-day English, you might have to describe a person’s face.

It is very useful to know how to do this.

So how do you describe someone’s face in English?

Read on and let’s find out.

 

The Main Features of the Face

 

First, we should make sure that we know what all the parts of the face are and how to call each part in English.

The main parts of the face are:

  • Eyes
  • Mouth
  • Nose
  • Ears
  • Eyebrows
  • Chin
  • Jaw
  • Throat
  • Neck
  • Cheeks
  • Hair

I have included features such as hair, throat and neck in this list. Not really part of the face, but when describing people’s faces, we often describe their hair and sometimes their throat and neck too.

Make sure you can identify each part of the face!

 

Face Shape

People’s faces often have a very defined shape to them.

Usually, these shapes are

  • Oval
  • Round
  • Square
  • Diamond
  • Heart
  • Oblong

 

It can be a little difficult to assign a shape to every person’s face. But for many people, they have a very clear shape to their face.

Try to identify what shape each person’s face is in the above pictures. Now go round the classroom and try to identify the shape of each student’s face.

 

In English, we can say the following phrases

He has an oval-shaped face.

She has a heart-shaped face.

His face is shaped like a square.

Her face is like a diamond shape.

 

Now you try!

Think about some people you know — friends or family — what shape face do they have?

Write some sentences describing their face shape using the examples above to help you.

 

Eyes

There are two ways we can describe people’s eyes — colour and shape.

The main colours for people’s eyes around the world are:

  • Brown/Black
  • Blue
  • Green
  • Hazel

 

I have heard some people describe their eyes as ‘black’. We have to be careful of using this colour to describe the colour of eyes as a black eye has another meaning!

If someone has been fighting and they get hit in the eye, the skin around the eye will become bruised. The colour turns blue and black. This is a black eye.

But if you say: My friend’s eyes are black. The other person should understand what you mean.

We could provide more detail by saying the shade of the colour. So, for example, we could say light blue, dark brown, light green, etc.

You don’t need to provide so much detail, but if you wish to, then use the words ‘light’ and ‘dark’ to describe the shade of colour.

Do not say: My friend’s eyes are very blue!

This is incorrect.

And for older people, often the colour of their eyes changes as they get older. So if someone has blue eyes when they were younger, as they get older, the blue becomes pale.

So we can say: My grandmother has pale blue eyes.

We can also describe the shape or size of someone’s eyes.

These are the main shapes and sizes we can talk about when describing a person’s eyes:

  • Almond-shaped eyes
  • Round shaped eyes
  • Down-turned eyes
  • Upturned eyes
  • Deep-set eyes
  • Wide-set eyes
  • Close-set eyes
  • Big eyes
  • Small eyes

Almond is a kind of nut. This shape is considered the most attractive for people’s eyes.

Down-turned eyes give someone a sad appearance, while upturned eyes give someone a cheerful, happy appearance.

Deep-set eyes are eyes that seem ‘sunken’ or deeper into the face. This often gives someone a serious expression.

Wide-set eyes are eyes that are not close together, while close-set eyes are close together.

For Asian people, they have a very defined shape to their eyes. Often, Asian people have single eyelids. This gives their eyes a very distinctive appearance that is different from people’s eyes from other parts of the world.

Be very careful how you describe an Asian person’s eyes though. There are terms that were used long ago that are now considered very impolite.

Terms such as slanted eyes or saying that Asian people have small eyes. Do not use these expressions in English. They are not acceptable today.

We can also use words such as bright, shining, strong or friendly to describe someone’s eyes.

Bright or shining might describe the light that comes from someone’s eyes. And strong might show that the person has a very strong personality, someone very confident, and this shows in their eyes.

Some people have very friendly eyes. They look like they are smiling through their eyes.

 

What to say in English

Here are some examples of how to describe someone’s eyes in English.

My friend has blue almond-shaped eyes.

My brother has deep-set dark brown eyes — people say it makes him look a little fierce.

My mother has pale blue eyes.

My friend has very friendly eyes.

My dad has bright eyes — they are always shining.

 

Now you try!

What about your friends or family?

What kind of eyes do they have?

Use the models and examples above to help you. Then write full sentences to describe people’s eyes.

 

Mouth

We can describe someone’s mouth by talking about the size and shape of it.

These are some common expressions we might use:

  • Big mouth
  • Wide mouth
  • Small mouth
  • Tight-lipped
  • Full lips
  • Heart-shaped lips
  • Open mouth
  • Firm mouth
  • Soft lips

No one really wants to be told they have a big mouth, be careful with that. We can say ‘He has a generous mouth’, that is more polite.

A wide mouth can be quite attractive. The actress Julia Roberts has a wide mouth. People with a wide mouth usually have a very big smile.

In fact, when we talk about a person’s mouth, we are usually talking about their lips.

Also, people convey their emotions and feelings through their mouth.

If someone is friendly and open, they will often have a full smile — this makes them look friendly.

But if someone is angry or hostile, they will show this in their mouth too — tight-lipped and firm.

We can also describe someone’s teeth. We can use the following expressions:

  • White teeth
  • Beautiful teeth
  • Crooked teeth
  • Discoloured teeth
  • Bad teeth
  • Broken teeth
  • Straight teeth

Be careful what expressions you use to describe someone’s teeth though. No one wants to be told they have bad and broken teeth!

But if someone has beautiful white teeth, it’s acceptable to describe their teeth as so.

 

We can say this in English

My friend has a big friendly mouth. He is always laughing!

My girlfriend has a small mouth.

My dad always has a tight-lipped expression. He is often angry about something…

 

Now you try!

Describe your friend’s or family member’s mouths.

Use the examples above to help you. Write full sentences every time.

 

Nose

We can describe a person’s nose by the shape or the size of it.

These are some common ways to describe noses:

  • Small nose
  • Big nose
  • High/Tall nose
  • Long nose
  • Bulbous nose
  • Hooked nose
  • Roman nose
  • Button nose
  • Upturned nose
  • Straight nose
  • Flat nose
  • Bumpy nose

A high or tall nose is a nose with a high bridge. The bridge of the nose is the top part where it joins the brow or forehead.

A bulbous nose is not considered attractive. The main part of the nose is rounded and like a bulb shape.

A hooked nose is shaped like a hook. It is also considered unattractive.

A Roman nose is a little like a hooked nose. There is a defined curve in the nose.

A button nose is small with a very low bridge. It can look cute on a child, but most adults don’t want this kind of nose.

 

These are some ways we describe a person’s nose in English

My dad has a big long nose. It is the most prominent feature on his face.

My friend has a hooked nose. He feels very self-conscious about it.

A girl in my school has the cutest button nose.

 

Now you try!

What about your nose?

Or your friends or family members noses?

Do they have any of the shapes above? How can you describe their noses?

Write full sentences describing people’s noses.

 

Ears

These are some ways to describe people’s ears.

  • Big
  • Small
  • Large
  • Long
  • Round
  • Pointed
  • Jug-ears
  • Sticking-out

Ears are pretty simple to describe!

Be careful about saying people have ‘jug ears’ as this is impolite. Also, people might have ears that stick out and it is rude to point this out too.

People can be very sensitive about how others see them!

 

Here are some sentences for you to look at

My dad has really big ears!

My friend has sticking-out ears. He is really self-conscious of it, so we don’t say anything about it.

There’s a girl in my class who has pointed ears. She kind of looks like an elf!

My grandfather has a small face but really big jug-ears!

 

Now you try!

Try to describe your friend’s ears. Or your family members.

Describing ears is not so complex, so your sentences may be very simple.

But still, you should write full sentences every time.

 

Eyebrows

Your eyebrows are the two lines of hair above your eyes. How to describe eyebrows?

Let’s take a look.

  • Arched eyebrows
  • Bushy
  • Thick
  • Thin
  • Straight

Again, describing eyebrows can be very simple.

 

This is how you can make sentences in English

My girlfriend has long, arched eyebrows.

My dad has thick, bushy eyebrows.

My eyebrows are thin and straight.

 

Now you try!

Describe the eyebrows of people you know — friends, family or classmates.

Make full sentences every time.

 

Chin

Your chin is the lowest part of your face, underneath your mouth.

These are some words and phrases you can use to describe people’s chins.

  • Narrow
  • Pointed
  • Wide
  • Prominent
  • Strong
  • Double-chin
  • Recessed
  • Chinless
  • Dimpled
  • Square

There are a few ways we can describe someone’s chin!

For men, you should use words such as wide, prominent, strong, square. These words have a more ‘masculine’ feel to them.

Double-chin means that the person is overweight, so it gives the impression that they have two chins. Or sometimes three!

Recessed chin — sometimes we use the word chinless — means someone that has a very small chin. It is not very complimentary, so be careful how you use this word. And avoid chinless!

And dimpled chin means someone who has a small dent — a dimple — in their chin. This is often regarded as being attractive.

 

Here are some sentences you can say in English

My father has a very strong, prominent chin. He has a dimpled chin which my mother loves!

My neighbour is chinless! It’s like he has no chin at all!

My English teacher has a pointed chin.

 

Now you try!

Use the sentences and examples above to describe people’s chins. Think of friends, family and other people you know.

Write full sentences every time.

 

Jaw

Your jaw is the lower part of your face. A bone that goes all around the lower part of your face. We use our jaws for chewing and eating.

These are some words we can use to describe someone’s jaw.

  • Strong
  • Prominent
  • Narrow
  • Angular
  • Wide
  • Chiselled
  • Sharp
  • Lantern-jawed

A person’s jaw often defines what shape their face is. Remember at the beginning we talked about face shapes?

Most of the expressions above are masculine. I think this is because a strong jaw is a sign of great masculinity.

An angular or chiselled jaw is a jaw that is defined by the prominent bone structure of the face. There are very clear angles in the jaw.

Lantern-jawed is to describe someone with a very large lower jaw. It resembles a lantern hanging from their face. Be careful how you use this as it is not complimentary!

 

And this is how we can make sentences

My mother has a small, narrow jaw.

My father has a strong, prominent jaw. It makes him look very serious.

 

Now you try!

Describe the jaws of your friends, family or classmates.

And always write full sentences.

 

Throat

Your throat is the soft front area of your neck. This is where food passes down to your stomach when you eat.

The throat is not really part of the face, but I thought it would be useful to include it here.

Here are some ways to describe someone’s throat.

  • Soft
  • Pale
  • Short
  • Long
  • Wrinkled

The throat area is very soft, but we can describe someone’s throat as being soft. This is quite a feminine adjective to use.

We might say a pale throat. This means that the colour of the throat area is a lighter shade than the rest of the person’s face.

A wrinkled throat belongs to an old person. This means they have many lines on their throat from old age.

 

Here are some sentences to look at

The woman in my office has a soft, pale throat.

My grandmother has a wrinkled throat.

 

Now you try!

Describe the throat of people you know — friends or family or anyone else

Write full sentences every time.

 

Neck

Your neck is the part of your body that holds your head upright.

These are some ways to describe a person’s neck.

  • Long
  • Thick
  • Short
  • Strong
  • Fat
  • Weak
  • Stiff
  • Graceful
  • Elegant
  • Slender
  • Swan-like

When describing a woman’s neck, we might often use more feminine terms such as long, graceful, elegant or slender.

To say a woman’s neck is swan-like means she has a long and elegant neck. But this term is a little old these days.

For men, we might use words such as strong or thick as these have a more masculine tone.

 

Let’s look at some sentences using these words

My older brother has a strong, thick neck from playing rugby every week.

My English teacher has a long and slender neck.

My neighbour has a short, fat neck.

 

Now you try!

Make sentences of your own — full sentences every time — to describe the necks of people you know.

 

Cheeks

Your cheeks are the two soft pieces of flesh either side of your face just below your eyes. Your nose is between your cheeks.

These are some ways to describe someone’s cheeks.

  • Pale
  • Hollow
  • Fat
  • Chubby
  • Red
  • Sunken
  • Rosy
  • Pallid
  • Glowing
  • Dimpled

A person’s cheeks are not really a prominent feature of the face like eyes, nose or mouth. But the cheeks do cover a large part of the face, so there are a few ways we can describe cheeks.

If we say someone has pale cheeks, it means they have no colour. It could mean they are ill.

Hollow or sunken cheeks makes the person look old or even very ill. This is where their cheeks go inward instead of out.

If we say a person has rosy cheeks, it is a sign that they are healthy and well. Rosy cheeks have a reddish glow.

But pallid cheeks are the complete opposite.

Glowing cheeks are about the same as rosy cheeks.

And dimpled cheeks — just like a dimpled chin — mean there are two dimples in the person’s cheeks. Many people find this very attractive.

 

Let’s see how to use these expressions in sentence form

My friend was sick last week, and when I went to visit him, his cheeks were pale and hollow.

My cousin always has glowing cheeks after he finishes running.

My girlfriend has dimpled cheeks. She looks so cute!

 

Now you try!

Using your friends and family, write sentences describing their cheeks.

Remember to write full sentences every time!

 

Complexion

Your complexion is the natural colour, texture and appearance of your skin. We can often determine if someone is healthy or not by looking at their complexion.

If you are describing the colour of someone’s skin, we must choose the right word. Some words can cause great offence, so be very careful.

For different skin colour we can say:

  • White
  • Black
  • Brown

And these are some other terms to describe complexion.

  • Rosy
  • Ruddy
  • Olive-skinned
  • Dark-skinned
  • Light-skinned
  • Tanned
  • Creamy
  • Sallow
  • Swarthy
  • Pink
  • Pale
  • Spots/Zits

Please be very careful when describing someone’s skin colour. There are many terms that are now considered out of date and some are offensive.

Rosy, ruddy, pink — this indicates a reddish glow to the skin.

Olive-skinned, tanned, swarthy — this shows that the person has a slightly darker skin tone.

Pale, creamy — these words describe someone whose skin is very white. But we should avoid saying ‘white skin’.

Spots and zits are small pimples that teenagers usually have on their face. No one likes to be reminded they have these though!

 

Let’s look at some sentences using these words

My wife has the most beautiful creamy skin!

If I lie in the sun for just a short time, I get a tanned very easily.

Whenever I get back home from going out on my bike, my wife says my skin always looks ruddy.

When I was younger, my face was covered in spots!

 

Now you try!

Write full sentences to describe the skin complexion of your friends and family.

 

Hair

There are two ways we can describe a person’s hair.

Colour

Style

 

Colour

Hair can come in the following colours

  • Blond
  • Brown
  • Black
  • Grey/white
  • Red

We can also use terms such as light-brown, dark-brown.

Someone with grey or white hair is usually an older person.

There are people with red hair, but they are not very common.

Some people might dye their hair — change the colour — so we might have green, blue or purple hair.

 

Style

Hair can come in different styles and textures.

Here are some of them.

  • Long
  • Short
  • Curly
  • Wavy
  • Spiky
  • Crew cut
  • Bald
  • Dreadlocks
  • Ponytail
  • Side parting
  • Centre parting

People can have all kinds of hairstyles these days. Men can have long hair, women can have short hair. Some people even shave their head bald and have no hair!

Check all the pictures and make sure you understand what all the different hairstyles are.

 

Now let’s look at sentences describing hair using the words above

My brother has got long dark brown hair. He often wears it in a ponytail.

The new girl in our class has got beautiful blonde hair.

I like to keep my hair short — so I always get a crew cut at the barbers.

My dad has had the same hairstyle all his life, short with a side parting.

 

Now you try!

Make sentences of your own describing the hair of people you know.

Remember — always use full sentences!

 

Distinguishing Features

When we are describing people’s faces, we find that they may have some distinguishing features.

These could be in the form of

  • Scars
  • Tattoos
  • Piercings
  • Facial hair
  • Moles

Scars are marks, or blemishes left on the skin after cutting it or an injury of some kind. Some people may have prominent scars, and it is impolite to point this out. But when describing another person, you can talk about it.

Tattoos are colourful designs that are displayed on the skin with a special kind of ink. They are permanent. Some tattoos can have very beautiful illustrations, while others might have a special meaning.

Piercings are small holes in certain parts of the body with a ring, or small stud inserted. People often have piercings in their ears. But others may have piercings in their eyebrows, lips, tongues or other parts of their body.

Facial hair is hair that grows on a man’s face. The different style of facial hair is beard, moustache, sideburns and goatee.

Moles are dark brown spots. Some people may have one on their face. We often call these beauty spots as they are considered attractive.

 

Let’s look at some sentences using these words

I have a small scar on my cheek from when I was a child.

A man on my street has a tattoo of a bird on his neck.

In my college, many of the students have nose rings. It is the fashion to pierce your nose.

My maths teacher has a beard. Some students say it makes him look unfriendly!

My mother has a small mole on her cheek. My father says she looks like a movie star!

 

Now you try!

Try to describe distinguishing features of your friends, family or other people you know.

Think about the scars, tattoos, piercings, facial hair and moles that people have, then write sentences describing them.

Always write in full sentences every time!

 

Emotion or Feeling of the Face

Some people wear their emotions on their face. We might describe someone as always looking happy. This gives a very clear idea of what the person looks like. We imagine them to be smiling with big, open eyes and their head up.

We can use emotions to describe someone’s appearance this way.

The most common emotions we could use to describe someone’s face are:

  • Happy
  • Sad/Unhappy/Down
  • Angry
  • Afraid
  • Worried
  • Surprised

So we can use these emotion words to help us describe someone.

Take a look at these examples.

My dad always seems very happy.

How does he seem happy? Does he tell people he is happy? No! It’s because of his face — he is smiling and his eyes are shining. He has a happy expression on his face.

My neighbour looks down most days.

How do we know this? By the expression on their face. Maybe their mouth is turned down, their eyes half-closed and empty. And maybe their head is facing the ground. Without talking to the person we might believe they are unhappy.

The guy in my office looks worried every day!

How do we know? Does he say he is worried? Maybe not. Maybe his eyes are wide and looking left and right. And maybe his eyebrows are raised. He looks worried.

This is a very good way to describe someone’s face. By talking about the emotions on their face.

 

Now you try!

Think of someone you know well — a family member or a friend. Now describe their face based on the emotional expression on their face.

You may only need to write one sentence. But make sure it is a full sentence.

 

Conclusion

 

Describing someone’s face is something you may have to do in the IELTS speaking test.

But it could come up in an interview or in a casual conversation. You might have to describe someone at work so that a new colleague can find a member of staff.

Either way, it is a good habit to expand your English ability and fluency by describing people in detail.

Go through all the steps in the guide above and make sure to write down full sentences of your own each time. Practice speaking out loud to yourself, describing different people you know.

Over time, you will find that you can describe almost anyone with ease.

Tell me your thoughts in the comments below!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *