Essential Adjectives for Physical Descriptions in Spanish

Talking about physical appearance in Spanish is easy if you know a few basic verbs and some common adjectives. In this lesson, we will introduce the basic vocabulary and expressions for making physical descriptions in Spanish in a very simple way. We will see how adjectives and other important parts of speech can be used in meaningful examples. There is a nice quiz in the lesson to practice as well.

Vocabulary introduction: Describing physical appearance in Spanish

Adjectives are words used to describe something or someone, such as JOVEN(young), BONITA(beautiful) and so on. Spanish adjectives must agree in number and gender with the noun (person or thing) they modify.  The picture below shows some of the most common adjectives and verbs for talking about physical appearance in Spanish. Pay attention to where adjectives are placed in the sentences and how the verbs SER and LUCIR are used as well.

Common adjectives to describe people and make physical descriptions in Spanish
Describiendo la apariencia física en español

Verbs and adjectives for making physical descriptions in Spanish

Ways to ask about physical appearance in Spanish

The verb SER is really useful for making physical descriptions in Spanish. SER will be commonly used in its forms ES and SON, as in questions like ¿Cómo es él/ella? and ¿Cómo son ellos/ustedes?. The second verb is LUCIR (to look like), which is a little bit more formal, and will be used as “LUCE” for a person and LUCEN for several as in “¿Cómo luce + el/ella/eso/esto?” and “¿Cómo lucen + ellos/ustedes/vosotros/esos?”. In some situations, you might also hear ¿Puedes describir + somebody?.

For some questions, there is need to use an article (un, una, la, los…) or a possessive adjective (su, tu, mi…) depending on who you are talking about, e.g. “¿Cómo es el ladrón?” (What does the thief look like?). Finally, you can also add direct object pronouns to the verb “describir” right after the verb as in “¿Puedes describirla?” (Can you describe her?) and ¿Puedo describirlos? (Can I describe them?). Listen to the first group of examples on physical descriptions in Spanish.

¿Cómo es ella? – Es alta, delgada y pelirroja.
What does she look like? – She is thin, tall and has red hair
¿Cómo es el ladrón? – Es alto y tiene bigote
What does the thief look like? – He is tall and has a mustache
¿Cómo es su pelo? – Su pelo es crespo/rizado
What’s her hair like? – Her hair is curly
¿Cómo luce tu novio? – El es gordito y bajo.
What does your boyfriend look like? – He is a short, chubby guy
¿Cómo luce tu novia? – Ella es bonita y tiene pelo liso.
What does your girlfriend look like? – She is pretty and has straight hair
¿Puede describirlo? – Es un hombre de mediana edad
Can you describe him? – He is a middle-aged man…

Sentence structure and verbs for physical appearance

The answers to the questions above and others about physical appearance will normally use the verbs LUCIR and SER plus adjectives. Here is the sentence structure that Spanish physical descriptions will follow most of the time:

Subject (optional) + verb (Lucir/Ser) + adjective/adjectives, e.g. Ella es alta.

Generally, even if the question you are asked contains the verb LUCIR, the verb SER is the most appropriate to describe a person’s appearance because LUCIR is more suitable when making compliments than for describing the way people look. In the previous examples, we also saw some sentences related to parts of people’s bodies such as “El pelo”(hair), “Los ojos” (eyes) and so on. For that kind of Spanish physical descriptions, you can use the verb TENER and follow this structure:

Subject (optional) + TENER (conjugation) + noun + adjective, e.g. Ella tiene ojos café

Common adjectives in physical descriptions in Spanish

As you can see, it is very important to use adjectives the right way. They are always placed after the verb SER and when more than one adjective is used, we must separate them with commas and add “Y” between the last two. Here some more examples of physical descriptions in Spanish using common adjectives.

Carlos es un joven de 20 años.
Carlos is a 20-year-old young man
El señor López es un hombre mayor/ El señor López es anciano.
Mr. Lopez is an old man
Mi hermano es ese muchacho bajo.
My brother is that short guy
Ellas son de estatura promedio/ Ellas son de altura promedio.
They are average height
Nosotros somos delgados y saludables
We are thin/slim and healthy.
Mi abuelita tiene el pelo canoso.
My grandmother has gray hair

The present continuous in Spanish

The last group of examples will be using the present continuous in Spanish, “estar + gerundio”. We will not go deep into the grammar stuff, but basically if a verb finishes in -AR then we will change its ending to -ANDO so a verb like USAR, for instance, will change to USANDO. Verbs that end in -ER and -IR change their ending to -IENDO so the verb VIVIR, for example, changes to VIVIENDO.

Imagine you are studying math and someone asks you ¿Qué estás haciendo? (What are you doing?). In order to reply, you may use the verb ESTUDIAR so your answer would be “Yo estoy estudiando” or just “Estoy estudiando”. Listen to a few more examples using more common words for physical appearance in Spanish like “Barba” (beard) and “Calvo”(bald).

¿Qué estás haciendo? – Estoy afeitándome la barba.
What are you doing? – I am shaving my beard
Estamos escribiendo una historia sobre un hombre calvo.
We are writing a story about a bald man
Ahora tengo pelo corto y estoy viviendo en otra ciudad.
Now I have short hair and I am living in another city
Estoy haciendo ejercicio porque estoy gordo.
I am exersicing because I am fat
La chica de pelo largo está estudiando matemática.
The girl with long hair is studying mathematics

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