French Vocabulary: Personality Traits

A group of bikers at the Tour de France.
Sportif (athletic). Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

How would you describe someone's personality in French? Are they nice, serious, or shy? Maybe they are patriotic or athletic.

Practice this new vocabulary by describing your friends (les amis (m) or amies (f)) and family (la familie).

Note: Many of the words below are linked to .wav files. Simply click on the link to listen to the pronunciation.

How to Describe Someone's Personality

When you are having a conversation about someone, the person you are speaking to may want to know more about them.

You will hear this question:

In order to answer the question, you will need to know the French translation for common adjectives (descriptive words). The following vocabulary list includes a number of adjectives that you might choose to use and they are given in the masculine singular form.

When describing someone, begin the sentence with Il / Elle est... (He / She is...) and follow up with one of the following adjectives. Many types of personality have a direct opposite or a word that is closely associated with an opposite and those are included here for comparison. 

He / She is...Il / Elle est...He / She is...Il / Elle est...
... athletic... sportif... inactive... inactif
... brave... courageux... cowardly... lâche
... cunning / sly... malin... honest... honnêtte
... friendly... amical... unfriendly... froid
... funny... drôle... serious... sérieux
... hard-working... travailleur... lazy... paresseux
... interesting... intéressant... boring... ennuyeux
... kind... gentil... mean... méchant
... nice... sympathique or sympa... unpleasant... désagréable
... open-minded... sans préjugés... snobbish... snob
... outgoing... ouvert... shy... timide
... patient... patient... impatient... impatient
... patriotic... patriotique... traitorous... traître
... smart... intelligent... stupid... stupide
... sophisticated... raffiné... naive... naïf
... strong... fort... weak... faible
... studious... studieux... playful... taquin

French Expressions About Personality

If you would like to go beyond the simple description of a person's personality, use one of these common expressions. As you will note, the literal English translation can be quite fun at times.

EnglishFrenchLiteral Translation
He always has his head in the clouds.Il a toujours la tête dans les nuages. 
He has his sights set high.Il a les dents longues.He has long teeth
He's a bit awkward.Il est mal dans sa peau.He's bad in his skin.
He's a glutton for movies.Il se gave des films.He force-feeds himself movies.
He's a real pain in the neck!C'est un vrai casse-pieds !He's a real foot-breaker!
He's a real sucker.C'est une bonne poire.He's a good pear
She doesn't wear kid gloves.Elle n'a pas la main douce.She doesn't have a soft hand.
She gets on my nerves.Elle me tape sur les nerfs. 
She has a forked tongue.Elle a une langue de vipère.She has a snake's tongue.
She has a knack for doing that.Elle a le chic pour faire ça.She has the flair for doing that.
She has no shame.Elle ne sait pas ce que c'est la honte.She doesn't know what shame is.
She looks down on it.Elle le voit d'un mauvais oeil.She sees it from a bad eye.
She's an idiot!C'est une cloche !She's a bell!
She takes after her mother.Elle tient de sa mère. 
This woman tells fortunes.Cette femme dit la bonne aventure.This woman tells the good adventure.
You always assume the worst.Tu penses toujours au pire.You always think of the worst.
You don't mince wordsTu ne mâches pas tes motsYou don't chew your words
You never open your mouth.Tu es muet comme une carpe.You're mute like a carp.
You're always talking nonsense.Tu dis toujours des absurdités.You always say absurd things.