How to Find Your Personality in English With Phrasal Verbs, Expressions & Idioms
Have you ever felt yourself panic when you’re trying to express your personality in English? Especially in an informal setting?
You feel comfortable listening to others talk about themselves and have little trouble understanding them, but when it’s time to talk about yourself, you feel...awkward.
Think about the last informal conversation you had about your personality in English. What did you talk about? Maybe you discussed your traits, habits, or quirks. You might have felt entirely out of your comfort zone, but you weren’t sure why.
It might be because you mostly studied formal English in school, or because you’re not sure about some of the phrasal verbs, expressions, or idioms you’ve found on the internet or heard on t.v.
You ask yourself, “Are these really the expressions or idioms English speakers use every day? Do these expressions sound natural? Or are they totally outdated?”
Well, today, we’re going to talk about some phrasal verbs, expressions, and idioms that you can use with confidence when you talk about yourself and your personality in English:
|take after||have it together||down to earth|
|fit in||take things to heart||late bloomer|
|turn off||tell it like it is||good head on your shoulders|
|hit off||go with the flow||all over the place|
|miss out||control freak||have (a) thick skin|
|piss off||take yourself seriously||a free spirit|
|chill out||have/give a good vibe||an open book|
The poet E.E. Cummings said, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” I would add that it also takes courage to share who you are with the world.
But the world needs you to share who you are!
So, if you’re ready to keep reading and practicing some ways you can express yourself and your personality in English, let’s go ahead and jump in, feet first!
Expressing Your Personality in English
Phrasal verbs to express your personality
We hear it from our students all the time: phrasal verbs are hard to master and use in conversation. And using them becomes even more difficult when you want to talk about yourself.
Don’t worry! We’re going to offer you some phrasal verbs that will help you express your personality, and we’ll show you a few different examples of how you can use them.
1. Take after
[takes after; took after; taken after; taking after]
Do you have your mother’s lack of patience? Do you have your grandfather’s sense of direction? Then you take after your family members. When you take after someone in your family, you share a physical trait, mannerism, or behavior. We all have those family members we wish we could take after, and those we wish we didn’t.
“My daughter takes after my mom; they’re both so good at math.”
“He’s got a short fuse! He’s taken after you, for sure.”
1. We don’t separate this phrasal verb.
“They both took after their father in terms of their athleticism.”
Get something from; inherit
take after + family members
2. Fit in with
[fits in with; fit in with; fit in with; fitting in with]
Part of figuring out who you are is about finding the right people for you. Those are the people that you fit in with. There’s nothing like the feeling of fitting in and finding your tribe.
When you fit in with a group of people, you feel you belong with them and they accept you, no matter your quirks, flaws, or funky fashion choices.
“She’s a person who always fits in wherever she goes.”
“It took me a while to find a group I fit in with, but I’ve made some great friends through my runners’ group.”
1. We can’t separate this phrasal verb when we use it in this context.
2. We can also use it without the preposition with when we’re talking about fitting in with people in general, not with a specific group.
“I just felt that I would never really fit in anywhere.”
“She told me that you probably won’t fit in here.”
Belong with, feel comfortable around
3. Turn off
[turns off; turned off; turned off; turning off]
You know that feeling when something just doesn’t excite you? Or even when it disgusts you? If your answer is “yes,” you’ve been turned off by something or someone. Just like you can turn off the television or computer, you can turn a person off, too, if you know which buttons to push.
The things that turn you off tell you about who you are and what you like or don’t like, so you should pay attention. Something that turns you off makes you feel a serious sense of dislike, unease, or maybe just boredom. We often use this phrasal verb in a romantic context, but we can also use it when we’re talking about people or ideas.
“People like me are usually turned off by a lack of imagination.”
“It really turns me off when people have loud political arguments around me.”
1. You can separate this phrasal verb.
“She said it turned her off when my friend bragged about his sports car.”
“His drinking habits have really started to turn me off.”
put off; gross out
We can use this word as a hyphenated noun, too, and when we do, you will often hear it with these common collocations: such a + turn-off; kind of a + turn-off; sort of a + turn-off
“I just found his selfishness to be such a turn-off.”
“She’s a good friend, and we both love hiking, but I find her views on sustainability to be kind of a turn-off.”
4. Hit it off
[hits it off; hit it off; hit it off; hitting it off]
There’s getting along with someone, and then there’s hitting it off. Maybe you’re the kind of person that hits it off with lots of different people, or maybe not. You can hit it off with someone in a romantic way when you feel a connection or spark.
When you hit it off with a new acquaintance, you feel that you get each other and understand each other right away. You might share common interests or hobbies, or you might just feel that magical sense of sameness. If you get along so well that you find yourself asking, “Are we the same person?” then you’ve hit it off with them, and you can never let them get away!
“I’m someone who doesn’t hit it off easily with new people.”
“You would probably hit it off with my cousin because she’s really creative.”
“I don’t think either of us realized how quickly we would hit it off, but we’re going to hang out again next week.”
1. In this context, we always use the word it with hit it off.
2. We often use the word with after hit it off.
“Did you notice how quickly he hit it off with him?”
Hit it off + right away; immediately
5. Miss out
[misses out; missed out; missed out; missing out]
Do you ever feel FOMO, or the Fear Of Missing Out? People who don’t like to miss out need to be a part of the action, and they worry that others might be having fun without them.
Introverts might feel that it’s ok to take a break from socializing, especially with new people or large groups, but extroverts get energy from time with others, and they might not want to miss out on an opportunity to spend time with people.
“I’m definitely someone who doesn’t like to miss out on a good time.”
“What did I miss out on last night? It sounded like you guys were having fun without me!”
“We thought about having the party on Friday, but we knew you would be sad to miss out.”
1. We can’t separate this phrasal verb.
2. We often use miss out with on.
“You missed out on a great time last night. Why didn’t you come?”
“I know you’re feeling antisocial, but if we let you miss out on this opportunity, we’d never forgive ourselves!”
6. Piss off
[pisses off; pissed off; pissed off; pissing off]
If something pisses you off, it makes you feel an interesting combination of anger and annoyance. If you’ve ever seen someone step in gum or argue about sports, you know what it looks like to be pissed off.
Knowing what pisses you off can tell you a lot about yourself: Are you pissed off by big things or little things? And what do you do when you get pissed off? Do you scream? Do you quietly count to ten? Everybody gets pissed off sometimes, but it’s how you handle that feeling that matters.
“Lots of things piss him off; that’s just part of his personality.”
“Can we not talk about the election anymore? It’s kind of pissing me off.”
1. We can separate this phrasal verb, and we usually do.
“It really pisses her off when someone leaves an empty box of cereal on the kitchen counter.”
“He didn’t mean to piss them off, but he had to be honest.”
We will sometimes use pissed off as an adjective.
“She’s sassy and she’s always a little pissed off.”
“I wasn’t hurt by your words. I was pissed off.”
7. Chill out
[chills out; chilled out; chilled out; chilling out]
Some people like to chill out, or relax, with a glass of wine on the patio. Some people like to chill out while listening to “scream metal” music and creating abstract art. To each their own, right?
We’re all different, and we all have different ways to chill out. And if you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed, you chill out when you calm down and restore your balance. Anxiety can be contagious, so if someone ever tells you to chill out, they’re telling you that you’re too amped up and you need to relax because they might be feeling freaked out, too.
“I’m a person who finds it really hard to chill out.”
“They weren’t doing much at his house. They were just chilling out.”
We sometimes separate this phrasal verb.
“She took her friend to a spa because she thought it would chill her out.”
We often use chill out as a command
“Chill out! Why are you so uptight?”
Just like the verb “pissed off,” we can also use chilled out as an adjective.
“He’d never met anyone as chilled out as his next-door neighbor.”
Expressions to describe your personality
We use expressions a lot when we’re talking about ourselves and our personalities, but sometimes the expressions you hear in everyday conversation and the ones you find in textbooks or articles don’t quite match up.
Take a look at these expressions and see how they apply to you. Can you use them to describe yourself?
1. Have it together
If you’re usually organized, prepared, and emotionally balanced, you have it together, and I applaud you. If that doesn’t describe you, then you probably know someone who has it together, like your older sister, your old friend from university, or anyone else whose life you secretly want.
“Growing up, my mom always had it together, even with eight kids running around.”
“I’m not sure she’ll ever have it together. It’s just not in her personality.”
And, by the way, if we don’t have it together, we might say that we need to get it together.
“Will I ever get it together? My life is a mess.
“They really need to get it together, and soon.”
2. Take things to heart
We all have feelings, but some people take things to heart more than others. If you’re someone who takes things to heart, you take things personally, you might be a bit sensitive, and you find it difficult to receive criticism.
You might be someone who doesn’t take things to heart: You aren’t easily bothered or worried about what others think about you, and you’re more open to feedback from friends or family.
“Just be careful with him. He tends to take things to heart.”
“She doesn’t take things to heart. She’s pretty tough.”
Take things personally; to be sensitive
3. Tell it like it is
A straightforward person tells it like it is: they don’t hold the truth back if they feel they need to say it. Friends and family really value someone who can tell it like it is, even if it’s not always easy to hear what they have to say.
“He’s known for telling it like it is, so he’s a great person to ask for an opinion.”
“It’s not that I can’t tell it like it is. I just don’t want to hurt her feelings.”
To be straightforward; to be direct
4. Go with the flow
If you’re flexible and unafraid of change, you can go with the flow. Someone who goes with the flow is generally easy-going and doesn’t argue or put up much of a fight.
If someone is putting up too much resistance or asking too many questions, then we tell them, “Don’t worry! Just go with the flow.” Jeff Bridges’ character in the film “The Big Lebowski” is a classic example of someone who goes with the flow, maybe even too much.
“I find it really hard to go with the flow, and I like to be the one in charge.”
“One of my favorite things about her that she can just go with the flow.”
Adapt; to be flexible
5. Control freak
It’s usually not nice to use the word “freak” in English outside of a few specific contexts, but we can use it when we talk about being a control freak.
A control freak is exactly what it sounds like: you really like and need control of a situation or of your life. It’s not necessarily a positive thing, but people who are honest with themselves about their need for control use it all the time.
“I know I’m being such a control freak, but I need you to let me drive.”
“Is she a control freak or does she just get stuff done?”
6. Take yourself seriously
If you find it hard to laugh at yourself, maybe you take yourself too seriously. People who don’t take themselves too seriously might have a gift for silliness and fun, and they like to make jokes. Students in university tend to take themselves pretty seriously until they graduate and realize that they need to chill out.
“I think I stopped taking myself so seriously when I quit my job in finance and decided to travel the world.”
“If you want to have a career in comedy, you absolutely can’t take yourself seriously.”
You can also take other things seriously besides yourself.
“Why do you take life so seriously?”
“It’s just a small gathering, but she’s taking this so seriously.”
“They took it pretty seriously when you mentioned you might be moving to Finland.”
To be uptight; to be humorless
7. Have/give a good vibe
When you have or give a good vibe, you radiate positivity, and people generally feel comfortable and happy around you. A person can also have or give a bad vibe, which means they make people feel uneasy or even unsafe.
You can give someone other kinds of vibes, too, like weird, interesting, or strange vibes. The word vibe is short for “vibration,” and it comes from the idea that a person can actually send negative or positive energy through vibrations. Whether or not you believe that’s true, though, just know that lots of people use this term without thinking too much about it.
“People have told me that I have a good vibe, so I guess I make people feel at ease.”
“Our new landlord gives me a good vibe.”
“She said her boyfriend’s mom gave her a weird vibe.”
Put someone at ease; make someone comfortable
You can also use the word vibe as a verb, as in “to vibe with someone.” When you vibe with someone, you hit it off or get along with them.
“I really vibe with my new yoga teacher, and it turns out we’re both from Brooklyn.”
Idioms to describe your personality
Sometimes idioms are easier to remember because they’re kind of funny and they use very visual imagery. In fact, a great way to learn and retain the idioms you learn is to make a mental picture in your head of the idiom.
For example, in order to remember the idiom “a late bloomer,” you can picture an actual flower that is waiting longer to bloom. It might sound silly, but it helps!
Take a look at these idioms and decide if they apply to your own personality.
Do you know anyone who is down-to-earth? That’s a person who is grounded, real, and authentically themselves. If you’re down-to-earth, you’re known for being practical and sensible, but also very easy to be around.
Most people look for a friend or romantic partner who is down-to-earth because they’re not pretentious or manipulative, and they’re easy to trust.
“It’s hard not to like her because she’s so down-to-earth.”
“Just because I like nice things and fancy vacations doesn’t mean I’m not down-to-earth.”
Grounded; practical; authentic
2. Late bloomer
Did you know that the famous chef Julia Child didn’t publish her first cookbook until she was 49, and the novelist Umberto Eco didn’t publish his book “The Name of the Rose,” until he was 48? If you’re a late bloomer, you know that it’s never too late to find yourself.
A late bloomer is someone who figures themselves out a little later than most people. So, it might take a late bloomer a little longer to find the right career, place to live, romantic partner, or sense of self. But it’s better late than never, right?
“I’m kind of a late bloomer: I didn’t really figure myself out until I was in my thirties.”
“All of my children are late bloomers, and that’s okay with me.”
Slow to develop; up-and-coming
3. Good head on your shoulders
Someone with a good head on their shoulders is mature, sensible, and good at making decisions. We all need at least one friend who has a good head on their shoulders, who can help us work through our problems and share their wisdom with us.
Keep in mind that there’s no direct antonym for this idiom: We don’t really say someone has a bad or useless head on their shoulders. No, a good head is all you need.
“My siblings have always told me that I have a good head on my shoulders, and they usually ask me for advice.”
“He doesn’t have a lot of life experience, but he does have a good head on his shoulders, so I think he’ll be fine.”
Wise; intelligent; thoughtful; insightful
4. All over the place
Now, someone who is all over the place is pretty much the opposite of some with a good head on their shoulders. We all have moments in life when we feel all over the place: We feel scattered, disorganized, and unable to focus on one thing.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing though. Some of the most innovative and creative people are all over the place because they see and think in a different way.
“I tend to be all over the place, so I’ve found some creative ways to stay focused.”
“Can he handle anything else? He is all over the place right now.”
Scattered; disorganized; unfocused
5. Have a thick skin
Maybe you were born with it, or maybe you’ve developed it over time, but if you have a thick skin, you are not easily hurt. It’s hard to emotionally injure someone who has a thick skin.
When you criticize or insult someone with a thick skin, they can take it. They might not agree with your feedback, but they don’t let it ruin their day. I think the secret to having a thick skin is not avoiding emotions, but knowing how to handle your emotions in a healthy way.
“I don’t have a very thick skin, but I’m working on that.”
“You can have a thick skin and still cry sometimes.”
Tough; strong; hard to rattle
6. A free spirit
A free spirit sounds like a magical creature, right? Well, they kind of are! A free spirit is someone who doesn’t worry about social norms or conventions. They prefer a life of independence and open-mindedness.
If you know someone who is a free spirit, you know they can be fun and friendly, and they’re very accepting of others.
“It’s hard for a free spirit like me to survive in the corporate world.”
“It’s funny that he’s such a serious person but all of his friends are such free spirits.”
Wild; independent; open-minded; unconventional
7. An open book
If you can’t imagine why someone would keep something private or have a secret, you might be an open book. That’s not a bad thing at all!
An open book is someone who doesn’t hide personal things about themselves; they are easy to read, understand, and get to know. They might share details about their personal life that others would never admit. We all know someone who is an open book. They’re good people, but sometimes we wish there was a way to un-hear some of the things they tell us!
“I’m an open book, and I don’t know what it’s like to have secrets.”
“He’s a lovely person, but just to warn you, he’s kind of an open book.”
Take a personality quiz!
A personality quiz is a great way to get a quick bit of knowledge about yourself, and who doesn’t need some self-knowledge?
Isabel Myers and her mother Katharine Briggs created this questionnaire, which was inspired by Carl Jung’s study of personality types. The test focuses on four main components of Jung’s personality theory: Extraversion vs. introversion, information processing, decision-making, and dealing with the outside world. You are assigned four different letters based on how you answer those questions:
Extraversion or Introversion (E or I)
Sensing or Intuition (S or N)
Thinking or Feeling (T or F)
Judging or Perceiving (J or P)
Considered to be the basis for modern personality research, this questionnaire was developed helps you understand your personality according to five significant factors that affect our traits and our behaviors:
Openness to new ideas
Conscientiousness - how you relate to long-term goals
Extraversion - how you relate to other people and the world
Agreeableness - how you view the needs of others in relation to your own
Neuroticism - what kinds of emotions stress can trigger for you
Take one of these personality quizzes or any other personality quiz of your choice. When you get your results, use one of the phrasal verbs, expressions, or idioms from this post to describe your personality. Write your answer in the comments!
The fashion designer and icon Coco Chanel said, “In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.” You’re unique and irreplaceable, and people should get to know you!
So, now that you have the language (and tools!) to help you express your personality in English, I encourage you to get out there and practice with a teacher, a new acquaintance, or a language partner. If you take it slow and keep practicing, just watch how quickly you’ll improve
About the writer
Marta is an online ESL teacher who works with students from around the world. As a writer, language nerd, and content contributor for In English With Love, her mission is to empower English learners with knowledge and positivity.