Describing people in Spanish using 'tener' and 'ser'
Describing physical appearance
It is useful to be able to describe what you or someone else looks like physically.
To find out from someone what they look like, ask ¿Cómo eres? (What do you look like?)
To reply, use the relevant part of the verb ser (to be).
You can see the verb ser in the table below.
|eres||you are (s)|
|sois||you are (pl)|
A verb is a doing word or an action, for example ‘play’, ‘run’, ‘read’.
Apart from the verb ser (to be), you need adjectives to describe what somebody looks like.
¿Cómo eres? - What do you look like?
Soy alto - I am tall.
Notice that alto ends in o.
Since -o is usually the masculine ending for adjectives in Spanish, this tells us that the person answering the question is male.
An adjective is a word that describes people, places or things.
Make sure you use es to describe somebody else.
¿Cómo es tu madre? - What is your mum like?
Es baja - She is short.
Can you use the language in this table to describe yourself and other family members?
|¿Cómo eres?||What do you look like?|
|¿Cómo es tu hermana?||What does your sister look like?|
Adjectives always need to agree with the person being described.
To ask someone what their hair is like ask ¿Cómo es tu pelo?
Use the verb tener (to have) to reply.
You can see the verb tener in the table below.
|tienes||you have (s)|
|tenéis||you have (pl)|
Use tengo to describe your own hair.
¿Cómo es tu pelo? - What is your hair like?
Tengo el pelo largo y rubio - I have long, blonde hair.
Use tiene to describe someone else’s hair.
Tu hermana, ¿cómo tiene el pelo? - What is your sister's hair like?
Tiene el pelo corto, liso y negro - She has short, straight, black hair.
The word for hair (el pelo) is masculine and singular, so the adjectives to describe hair must agree with the word pelo by also being masculine and singular and not with the person you are describing.
Look at the language in this table and use it to help you describe your own hair in detail, or someone else’s hair.
|¿Cómo tienes el pelo?||What is your hair like?|
|Tengo el pelo...||I have … hair|
|¿Cómo tiene el pelo?||What is his/her hair like?|
|Tiene el pelo…||He/She has … hair|
To ask someone what their eyes are like you can say:
- ¿Cómo son tus ojos? - What are your eyes like?
- ¿Cómo son tus ojos? - What are your eyes like?
- Tengo los ojos azules - I have blue eyes.
Use tiene to describe someone else’s eyes.
Tu hermano, ¿cómo tiene los ojos? - What are your brother’s eyes like?
Tiene los ojos verdes - He has green eyes.
The word for eyes (los ojos) is masculine and plural, so the adjectives to describe eyes must also be masculine and plural.
Notice that there are the two different words for brown:
Use marrones when talking about eye colour and castaño when talking about hair colour.
Mi hermana tiene los ojos marrones - My sister has brown eyes.
Tengo el pelo castaño - I have brown hair.
Talking about other features
To describe other physical features, like being bald, having freckles or wearing glasses you can use the verbs ser (to be), tener (to have) and llevar (to wear).
This is the verb llevar:
|lleváis||you wear (pl)|
¿Llevas gafas? - Do you wear glasses?
No, no llevo gafas - No, I don't wear glasses.
Mi madre lleva gafas y un hiyab - My mother wears glasses and a hijab.
Mi abuelo lleva barba y bigote - My grandfather has a beard and a moustache.
Mi padre es calvo - My father is bald.
Tengo pecas - I have freckles.
Use the table below to create a detailed description of yourself and someone else that you know.
|llevo gafas||I wear glasses|
|llevo barba||I have a beard|
|llevo bigote||I have a moustache|
|soy calvo||I am bald|
|llevo un hiyab||I wear a hijab|
|tengo pecas||I have freckles|
|lleva gafas||he/she wears glasses|
|lleva barba||he has a beard|
|lleva bigote||he has a moustache|
|lleva un hiyab||she wears a hijab|
|es calvo||he is bald|
|tiene pecas||he/she has freckles|
Listen to these two people describe what they look like.
Don't forget to click on the Audio Transcript for the translation!
Read Tom and Nat's descriptions of themselves and complete the activity.
Tom: Tengo el pelo largo y castaño. No llevo barba. Tengo los ojos azules.
Nat: Tengo el pelo rubio y ondulado. Llevo gafas. No tengo pecas.
To describe someone’s personality, use the verb ser (to be) and different adjectives.
Make sure that adjectives agree with the person that they are describing.
- Me llamo María. Soy inteligente y simpática - I am called María. I am clever and kind.
- Mi mejor amigo es hablador pero creativo - My best friend is chatty but creative.
Remember that adjectives that end in -e are the same in the masculine and feminine forms.
- Mi primo es activo y amable - My cousin is active and nice.
Use the tables below to describe your personality and the personality of someone that you know.
Don’t forget to use the correct form of the adjective for the person you are describing.
|¿Cómo es tu personalidad?||What sort of person are you?|
|¿Cómo es tu hermano/tu hermana?||What sort of person is your brother/your sister?|
|Es simpático||He is friendly|
|Es simpática||She is friendly|
|Es generoso||He is generous|
|Es generosa||She is generous|
|Es gracioso||He is funny|
|Es graciosa||She is funny|
|Es honesto||He is honest|
|Es honesta||She is honest|
Have a look at this downloadable vocabulary list to see more words to describe people
You could also add intensifiers before the adjective to enhance your language.
Mi hermano es muy creativo - My brother is very creative.
Mi madre es un poco estricta - My mother is a bit strict.
Can you use these intensifiers to describe different people’s personalities in more detail?
|un poco||a bit|
If you want to compare two things, you can use más (more), followed by an adjective and que (than) followed by a noun.
The adjective still needs to agree with whatever is being described.
- Mi hermana es más alta que mi hermano - My sister is taller than my brother.
- Mi madre es más inteligente que mi padre - My mother is more intelligent than my father.
- Soy más bajo que mi hermana - I am shorter than my sister.
Watch the video and test your understanding of describing people in Spanish in this short quiz!