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Speaking About People

Speaking Test Part Two: Questions about people

Many of the questions in this part of the test are about people. As well as this you can often discuss a person when you are answering other types of questions. For instance, if you are describing a place you might describe the person you go there with.

GRAMMAR 

Tenses:
If the question asks you to describe someone you know now. e.g. Describe a person who is interesting,  you should describe the person using the present tense. If you are asked to describe someone you know from the past you should still describe the person using the present tense, unless the person is now dead. In this case you will use the past tense. Illustrative examples:

My neighbor Brian is a senior citizen. [present tense is used because he is still alive]

Audrey Hepburn was a petite woman. [past tense is used because she is dead]

For all types of people, describe any actions they have already done using the past tense. For example, “He learnt how to fly a plane last year.”

Use relative pronouns [who, whose]

Use who to add information about the subject.

My neighbor, who is really old, seldom goes outside.

Use whose as a possessive relative pronoun.

He is a rich man whose house is very large.

 

VOCABULARY:

To make your answer more interesting use lots of descriptive vocabulary, e.g. extrovert, slender, and so on. You could talk about the following aspects:

1.     appearance

2.     personality

3.     relationship to you

4.     their lifestyle

1. appearance:

Height: petite [short], lofty [tall]

Build: slender [thin], overweight [fat], well-built [muscular]

Age: toddler [young child], adolescent [young adult], senior citizen

Facial features: clean shaven, full beard, goatee beard, moustache

Hair: short cropped hair, long thick hair, ponytail, bald

Audrey Hepburn was a petite woman with short cropped hair. Hepburn was boyish, and yet feminine simultaneously. She was famous for wearing little black dresses that had a way of making her look glamorous. [past tense is used because she is dead]

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Brian is a senior citizen, with a goatee beard, a moustache, and a short grey ponytail. He always wears sunglasses because he has eyes that are sensitive to sunlight. [Present tense is used because he is still alive].

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speaking ebook

Sarah, who is in her early forties, is quite tall and has a medium build. She has thick black hair that is plaited into a waist length ponytail. She usually wears jeans and a red sweater.

sarah

   

 

2: PERSONALITY

You can talk about positive and negative features of a person’s personality.

Positive: warm, fun loving, intelligent, charming, kind-hearted, extrovert [outgoing]

Emma is quite an extrovert. She is always the life of the party because of her warm-hearted and fun loving nature.

Negative: mean, selfish, cruel, arrogant, introverted, a pain in the neck [annoying]

Stevenis rather introverted, he usually sits quietly in the corner at parties. He is also a pain in the neck because he always bothers me when he needs help with his computer.

 

3. RELATIONSHIP: pal, soul-mate, classmate, colleague, family member, mentor

I have been pals with Peter since high school. I guess you can say that now he is my soul-mate. As well as this his father has always been somewhat of a mentor to me, as he is my soccer coach.

 

4. lifestyle: hobbies, interests, work

My sister is a college student and a part-time assistant in an office, so she has little time to socialize at the weekend or play badminton

 

Some advice about vocabulary:

1. Have short lists; you only need 2 or 3 words for each category

2. Focus on high-level language = language to impress the examiner and increase your score

3. The truth doesn’t matter, use language to describe a person even if that is not true. For instance you might say your uncle is an extrovert even though he isn’t! This is to increase your score for vocabulary.

  

Model answer

Describe a famous celebrity from your country who you admire:

You should say:

who the person is

what kind of celebrity this person is

describe why this person has become successful

and explain why you admire this person.

 

Alright then, I’m going to talk about Faye Wang, who’s the most famous female singer in China.

I’d like to begin by highlighting that Faye is considered as the all-time diva among the young generation. She was born in Beijing, but became famous in Hong Kong as a pop singer. Her fame is due to her career as a highly successful and influential singer, songwriter and actress; and she’s also known as an icon of fashion due to her amazing and impressive makeup and clothing styles.

Now let’s move on to the point of why I hold Faye in high regards.  What I have to mention here is the admiration I have for her dedication to help others. Her daughter was born with a cleft lip, and she took her to California for surgery. Once she realized how much money is required for cleft lip surgeries, she decided to establish a foundation to help people receive proper treatment.

Apart from this, what I’d like to mention is that Faye is a highly family-oriented person. She is a traditional Chinese woman and in the mid-1990s she left Hong Kong at the peak of her career and moved to Beijing to live with her husband, who was a successful rock star. Although her marriage failed, everyone took pity on her and respected the career sacrifice she made for her family.

 

Practice questions

Describe one of your neighbors.

You should say:

what sort of person your neighbor is

do you like this neighbor

when do you usually meet this neighbor

and explain if this person is a good neighbor.

 

Describe an old person you admire.

You should say:

who this person is

how long you have known him/her

what qualities they have

and explain why you admire him/her.

  

Describe someone you know who is a good teacher.

You should say:

who this person is

how you know him/her

what kinds of subjects they teach

and explain why this person is good at teaching.

 

Describe an interesting person who you know.

You should  say:

what sort of person this is

where you first met him/her

why you met him/her

and explain why you think this person is interesting.

 

 Additional common topics are covered in the full-version of this speaking book

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