August 20


14 Advanced Adjectives to Describe People (Straight From a C2 Practice Test)

Hello hello, it’s good to be back, good to be back, and welcome to Prepare to Pass Your Cambridge Exam by Cambridge Exam Coach, the podcast where you can listen to tips and advice for passing the Cambridge exams at the same time as improving your English.

I’m Kristian, your host, today it’s Friday 20 August 2021, and in this episode we’re going to be discussing some advanced adjectives that we can use to talk about people.

So relax, get comfortable, and enjoy this episode of the podcast. Here we go!

Hello dear dear listeners, how are you doing? I hope you’re doing great and that you’re looking forward to listening to this episode of the podcast.

Before we start, I just want to mention two things:

1. It’s a good idea to check out the show notes of this episode on You can read along while listening, or you can do it afterwards, when you revise the exercise.

2. I started a Facebook Group a few weeks ago and everyday people like you become a member of the community. In the group I share exercises to imrpove your English on a daily basis as well as exam tips and strategies. If that sounds like music to your ears,  then head over to the Facebook community at and join people from all over the world who are improving their English together with me.  

Okay, that’s enough housekeeping. Let’s get down to business.

Here’s what I did: pick an extract from a C2 practice test. Mined the extract for adjectives that you can use to describe people. Used the dictionary to give you definitions and to create example sentences.

First I’m gonna read out the extract and the multiple choice question. Then I’m going to discuss    

What does the writer imply about comedians in this paragraph?

A. People in certain other professions generally have a better image than them.

B. It is possible that they are seen as possessing only negative characteristics

C. It is harder to generalise about them than about people in other professions

D. They often cannot understand why people make negative judgements of them 

Definitions and example sentences

Someone who is absent-minded forgets things or does not pay attention to what they are doing, often because they are thinking about something else.

In his later life he became even more absent-minded.

If you describe someone as venal, you disapprove of them because they are prepared to do almost anything in return for money, even things which are dishonest or immoral.

Those battling to win seats in the election tomorrow are viewed as more venal, corrupt and conniving than any fantasy TV we watch.

If people are gloomy, they are unhappy and have no hope.

Graduates are feeling gloomy about the jobs market.

If a place is gloomy, it is almost dark so that you cannot see very well. If a situation is gloomy, it does not give you much hope of success or happiness.

This all paints a gloomy picture of an economy sliding into recession.

If you describe someone as cynical, you mean they believe that people always act selfishly.

…his cynical view of the world.

If you are cynical about something, you do not believe that it can be successful or that the people involved are honest.

It’s hard not to be cynical about reform. [+ about]
It has also made me more cynical about relationships.

Someone who is parsimonious is very unwilling to spend money.

Laura was not mean but she was parsimonious, in the way of the war generation.

If you describe a person or their behaviour as vulgar, you mean that they lack taste or behave rudely.

He was a vulgar old man, but he never swore in front of a woman.

If you describe something as vulgar, you think it is in bad taste or of poor artistic quality.

I think it’s a very vulgar house.
The film is tasteless, vulgar and even badly shot.

If you describe a person, piece of work, or idea as shallow, you disapprove of them because they do not show or involve any serious or careful thought.

I think he is shallow, vain and untrustworthy.

Someone who is arrogant behaves in a proud, unpleasant way towards other people because they believe that they are more important than others.

He was so arrogant.

Someone who is introspective is examining and considering their own ideas, thoughts, and feelings, instead of talking to other people about them.

He had been allowing himself to become gloomy and introspective.
She is famous for her introspective thoughts about failed relationships.

If you are insecure, you lack confidence because you think that you are not good enough or are not loved.

Some men feel insecure around a woman who is confident.

If you say that someone is smug, you are criticizing the fact they seem very pleased with how good, clever, or lucky they are.

A hazard of talking about your own achievements is that you can seem smug.

An autocratic person has complete power and makes decisions without asking anyone else’s advice.

The people have grown intolerant in recent weeks of the King’s autocratic ways.

If you describe someone as amoral, you do not like the way they behave because they do not seem to care whether what they do is right or wrong.

The man was violent and amoral.

If you say that someone is selfish, you mean that he or she cares only about himself or herself, and not about other people.

I think I’ve been very selfish. I’ve been mainly concerned with myself.

Over to you

Study the adjectives in this episode, then write down 10 personalised examples to make them your own.

Facebook group:

Take care of yourself, and each other. Bye bye!

About the author 


Kristian is from The Netherlands and until the end of 2021 he's living in the beautiful city of Rotterdam. He is a CELTA qualified teacher who passed the Cambridge C2 Proficiency exam at grade A. When he's not working, he likes to chill out with music, a book, podcasts or an audiobook.


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