Lesson 21
Mastering the descriptions

 

Details, detail, details, everything is about the details.

These two people are answering an email and attempting to describe their feelings after checking out the link to a website of a textile designer a friend of theirs has just sent to them.

Compare:

Person A)

How nice!
Thank you for saying good morning.
I wish she could run such an interesting business herself, she deserves it.
Anyhow, her world is very beautiful!

 

Person B)

How joyful!
Thank you for this happy and colourful good morning.
I wish she could run such a creative and gratifying business herself, she deserves it!
Anyhow, her world is as neat and crisp and clean as a spring morning!"


 

You will agree with me that the second description conveys the author’s feelings about the website much better because of the better use of adjectives.

Before trying to learn new adjectives, let’s clarify some basic concepts.

 

What are adjectives?

Adjectives describe how things, people and situations are. Thus, they describe “nouns”.

For example

- I’d like to have a cup of hot chocolate- Me gustaría tomar una taza de chocolate caliente.

  • Hot is the adjective.
  • Chocolate is the noun.

 

Where are adjectives placed?

Most of the times adjectives are placed BEFORE nouns. That is exactly the opposite of the placement in Spanish.

We don’t say: A dog green- but "A green dog".

More examples:

  • A fantastic car. Un coche fantástico.
  • Two little green men. Dos pequeños hombres verdes.

How many adjectives are there?

There are many types of adjectives, but we’ll concentrate only on 11 of them; the ones that you should learn to place in a sentence.

Let’s check them out.

1) Number- A number is an adjective when it is place before a noun.

  • First, second, fourth, thousands (miles), hundreds (cientos)
  • The first person in the row. La primera persona en la fila

2) Opinion: When you observe something, or someone, you give your point of view.

  • Funny, controversial, stupid, lovely, convenient
  • We saw a funny film. Vimos una divertida película.
  • 3) Size: It describes how big or small something or someone is.

     

    • Tall, short, small, big
    • I think he is a tall man. Creo que es un hombre alto.

    4) Shape: It describes the form of something or someone.

    • Round, circular, heavy, light.
    • It was a round table. Era una mesa redonda.
  • 5) Condition

    • Cleaned, broken, new, dirty
    • This is a dirty place. Este es un lugar sucio.

    6) Age

    • Old, modern, ancient, recent, new
    • In New York there are many modern buildings. En Nueva York hay muchos edificios modernos.

    7) Colour

    • Reddish, purple, yellowish, black
    • It was a reddish fruit. Era una fruta roja.

    8) Pattern

    • Chequered, flowery, fluted, criss-cross
    • She wore a spotted dress- Ella llevaba puesto un vestido moteado.

    9) Origin

      • French, southern, American, Spanish, polar, extra-terrestrial, Nordic
      • I love Nordic decoration- Me encanta la decoración nórdica.

        10) Material

          • Glass, wooden, fabric, cotton, plastic, leather, ceramic, metal, steel
          • I would like to have a wooden floor in my new house. Me gustaría tener un suelo de madera en mi nueva casa.
          • 11) Purpose What something is for.

            • Drawing, folding, cooking, sleeping, cutting
            • This is a fishing rod- Esta es una caña de pescar.


             

            What is the order of the adjectives in a sentence?

            More important than knowing how many adjectives there are, you need to know their order in a sentence.


            Here you have table with examples.

            1. Number: I'm in the fourth row - Estoy en la cuarta fila

            2. Opinion: We saw a funny film. Vimos una película divertida

            3. Size: I think he is a tall man. Creo que es un hombre alto

            4. Shape: It was a round table. Era una mesa redonda

            5. Condition: This is a dirty place. Este es un lugar sucio

            6. Age: There are many modern buildings in this city. Hay muchos edificios modernos en esta ciudad.

            7. Colour: It was a reddish fruit. Era una fruta rojiza

            8. Pattern: She wore a spotted dress. Ella llevaba un vestido moteado

            9. Origin: I love Nordic decoration. Me encanta la decoración nórdica

            10. Material: This is a wooden floor. Este es un suelo de madera

            11. Purpose: This is a fishing rod. Esta es una caña para pesca

             

            Let’s see a sentence that includes some of these adjetives.

          • She loves that huge (size) rectangular (shape) dirty (condition) old (age) yellowish (color) house. Le encanta esa enorme rectangular sucia y vieja casa amarillenta.
          •  

            This order will help you write better, so it’s convenient for you to keep it in mind when you start writing.

             

            How can we learn more adjectives?

            The capacity to describe people, objects or situations in a more sophisticated way is mainly acquired through reading. Reading allows you learn the right combination of words and to know where and when to place them together.

             

            But as you already know, if you are learning English, you must first listen to the words. That’s why we are going to use the audiobook to learn some new adjectives.

             

            Remember that it is important to remember how the adjectives are used, so instead of memorising loose words, you should memorise the adjective and the noun together.

             

            For example, it is better to learn: “evil and aged expression” than to learn only “evil” or “aged.”

             

            Please, go now to chapter 10 of your audiobook.

            As you can see, I have put adjetives in red and nouns in blue.

            Chapter 10

            The picture gets old; Dorian doesn't.

            The portrait locked in the room showed the traces of his real life."

            The influence of that book accompanied Dorian Gray for years. In fact, it seemed that the book told the story of his own life. But he was even more fortunate than the novel's protagonist, who was afraid of looking at mirrors because he had started to grow old.

            However, Dorian Gray was not afraid of mirrors, because despite his years, he conserved his extraordinary beauty and youth. Because of this, those that knew him in person and saw the purity of his face, didn't believe the bad things that were said in London about his way of life.

            He would often arrive home after a night of excess, go up to the room where he had locked away the portrait and open the door with the key that he always carried with him. He would place himself in front of the painting that Basil Hallward had painted, with a mirror. The face on the canvas had an evil and aged expression. He, however, was young and beautiful.

            He would examine with great care the hideous wrinkles that had appeared on the forehead and mouth of the portrait. He also liked to compare his fair hands with the wrinkled hands in the picture.

            Sometimes, lying on the dirty bed of one of those taverns of ill-repute that he frequented, he thought about the harm he was doing to his soul. But these moments were rare as his curiosity about life was greater. The more he knew, the more he wanted to know.

            Once or twice a month he would open the doors of his house. He would contract the best musicians of the moment. The dinners that he held and that Lord Henry helped him to organise, were famous for the careful choice of guests and for the tasteful way that the table was decorated. The elegant young people that attended these meetings saw in Dorian Gray a model to imitate and would copy everything he did.

            Dorian Gray looked for sensations that were at the same time new and pleasant. So, for a time he studied perfumes, then he entered into the study of music, and another time he became interested in the history of jewellery.

            All of this helped him to forget and escape from fear. The portrait locked away in the room showed the traces of his real life. He reached a point where he couldn't live too far from the portrait. He was afraid that someone would enter the room and discover it.

             

            One of the things that you learn just through listening is that certain words are used frequently with some words and not with others. Note: This is called “collocations” in English.

            For example, we usually say “clear sky”- cielo despejado, but we don’t say “clear piece of papel”- “papel despejado”.

            The problem – as with the vocabulary and structure - is to remember these adjectives as there are just too many. So, we will resort to images again.

             

            Please, study the sentences and images that I have selected from chapter 10.

             

            extraordinary beauty and youthextraordinaria belleza y juventud

            Despite the years he conserved his extraordinary beauty and youth.

            Despite the years he conserved his extraordinary beauty and youth.

            Despite the years he conserved his extraordinary beauty and youth.

            Despite the years he conserved his extraordinary beauty and youth.


            the bad things- Las malas cosas

            Those who knew him didn’t believe the bad things that were said about him.

            Those who knew him didn’t believe the bad things that were said about him.

            Those who knew him didn’t believe the bad things that were said about him.

            Those who knew him didn’t believe the bad things that were said about him.

             

            night of excess- Noche de excesos

            He would often arrive home after a night of excess.

            He would often arrive home after a night of excess.

            He would often arrive home after a night of excess.

            He would often arrive home after a night of excess.

             

            evil and aged expression. La expresión malvada y envejecida

            The face on the canvas had an evil and aged expression.

            The face on the canvas had an evil and aged expression.

            The face on the canvas had an evil and aged expression.

            The face on the canvas had an evil and aged expression.

             

            with great carecon gran cuidado

            He would examine with great care….

            He would examine with great care….

            He would examine with great care….

            He would examine with great care….

             

            the hideous wrinkles- espantosas arrugas

            He would examine with great care the hideous wrinkles.

            He would examine with great care the hideous wrinkles.

            He would examine with great care the hideous wrinkles.

            He would examine with great care the hideous wrinkles.

             

            fair hands- Manos pálidas

            He also liked to compare his fair hands with the wrinkled hands in the picture.

            He also liked to compare his fair hands with the wrinkled hands in the picture.

            He also liked to compare his fair hands with the wrinkled hands in the picture.

            He also liked to compare his fair hands with the wrinkled hands in the picture.

             

            wrinkled hands- Manos arrugadas

            He also liked to compare his fair hands with the wrinkled hands in the picture.

            He also liked to compare his fair hands with the wrinkled hands in the picture.

            He also liked to compare his fair hands with the wrinkled hands in the picture.

            He also liked to compare his fair hands with the wrinkled hands in the picture.

             

            dirty bed - sucia cama

            Sometimes, lying on the dirty bed...

            Sometimes, lying on the dirty bed...

            Sometimes, lying on the dirty bed...

            Sometimes, lying on the dirty bed...

             

            taverns of ill-repute- Tavernas de mala reputación

            Sometimes, lying on the dirty bed of one of those taverns of ill-repute

            Sometimes, lying on the dirty bed of one of those taverns of ill-repute

            Sometimes, lying on the dirty bed of one of those taverns of ill-repute

            Sometimes, lying on the dirty bed of one of those taverns of ill-repute

             

            the best musicians- Los mejores músicos

            He would contract the best musicians of the moment.

            He would contract the best musicians of the moment.

            He would contract the best musicians of the moment.

            He would contract the best musicians of the moment.

             

            the careful choice of guests- La cuidadosa elección de invitados

            The careful choice of guests.

            The careful choice of guests.

            The careful choice of guests.

            The careful choice of guests.

             

            the tasteful way that the table was decorated- El buen gusto con que fue decorada la mesa.

            The tasteful way that the table was decorated.

            The tasteful way that the table was decorated.

            The tasteful way that the table was decorated.

            The tasteful way that the table was decorated.

             

            The elegant young people- La elegante gente joven

            The elegant young people.

            The elegant young people.

            The elegant young people.

            The elegant young people.

             

            Real life – Verdadera vida

            The portrait locked away in the room showed the traces of his real life.

            The portrait locked away in the room showed the traces of his real life.

            The portrait locked away in the room showed the traces of his real life.

            The portrait locked away in the room showed the traces of his real life.

             

            Homework

            1. Learn the adjectives found in chapters 11 and 12 in the same way you have learnt the adjectives of chapter 10 here.

             

            1. Describe:
            Your personality

              Example

              I consider myself strong, open minded and direct. I'm not afraid to tell people what I think about them or about any topic. I tell it like I see it because I feel it's better to be completely honest with someone. Telling someone a lie just to keep them from not getting hurt is not good for them. If they ask me for the truth, I tell them the truth for their own benefit and best interest. I care about people, try to help them as much as I can in any way I can. I have a good sense of humour. I love to meet people from around the world to learn new things. I love to learn about everything I can. I'm very patient and compassionate. I love animals. I love to travel!!
              My weakness would be that it's hard for me to forget when someone hurts me. I could forgive them but it's hard to get over it.

              Source http://www.dateagolfer.com/members/larawash

               

              Your hometown

              Example

              My hometown is Lahore. I was born in Lahore and I like it a lot. Lahore is a very important city in Pakistan because it is the capital city of the largest province in Pakistan. Right now I am living in my hometown and I wish live over here for the rest of my life.

              Lahore is a very big city with wide and beautiful roads. Lahore is also regarded as the educational hub of Pakistan as there are many educational institutes in Lahore. Lahore also has its significance for the fact that it was a very important city during the Mughal period. People who visit Lahore can easily agree to the fact that it has very rich cultural heritage. There are many gardens, historical buildings and museums in Lahore. Another thing which is very special about Lahore is its food industry. There are many different restaurants which are offering different kinds of food.

              I have been to many cities in this world, but still I regard Lahore to be the most beautiful city amongst all. Last month I went to Dubai and everybody knows that how beautiful it is, but still I was keen to return to my hometown. There is so much greenery in Lahore whereas I was not able to find enough in Dubai. I think that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. I think I can highlight all the good features of Lahore because it is my city, and that it is the reason, I often ignore the good features of other cities in the world.

              Source: http://www.fetsystem.com/ieltsexamination/ielts-speaking-part-2-describe-hometown



              Describe Dorian Gray

              1. Ask yourself: What is Dorian Gray like?
              2. Notice what the character says in the dialogues.
              3. Ask yourself, what kind of person would say this? Name the traits that match the dialogue.

              At the end, you’ll see a native speaker’s description of Dorian Gray taken from the original book (not an adapted version). Once you’ve written yours, compare them and see how you can improve yours.

               

              Your description of Dorian Gray character


              Dorian Gray

              At the opening of the novel, Dorian Gray exists as something of an ideal: he is the archetype of male youth and beauty. As such, he captures the imagination of Basil Hallward, a painter, and Lord Henry Wotton, a nobleman who imagines fashioning the impressionable Dorian into an unremitting pleasure-seeker. Dorian is exceptionally vain and becomes convinced, in the course of a brief conversation with Lord Henry, that his most salient characteristics—his youth and physical attractiveness—are ever waning. The thought of waking one day without these attributes sends Dorian into a tailspin: he curses his fate and pledges his soul if only he could live without bearing the physical burdens of aging and sinning. He longs to be as youthful and lovely as the masterpiece that Basil has painted of him, and he wishes that the portrait could age in his stead. His vulnerability and insecurity in these moments make him excellent clay for Lord Henry’s willing hands.

               

              Dorian soon leaves Basil’s studio for Lord Henry’s parlor, where he adopts the tenets of “the new Hedonism” and resolves to live his life as a pleasure-seeker with no regard for conventional morality. His relationship with Sibyl Vane tests his commitment to this philosophy: his love of the young actress nearly leads him to dispense with Lord Henry’s teachings, but his love proves to be as shallow as he is. When he breaks Sibyl’s heart and drives her to suicide, Dorian notices the first change in his portrait—evidence that his portrait is showing the effects of age and experience while his body remains ever youthful. Dorian experiences a moment of crisis, as he weighs his guilt about his treatment of Sibyl against the freedom from worry that Lord Henry’s philosophy has promised. When Dorian decides to view Sibyl’s death as the achievement of an artistic ideal rather than a needless tragedy for which he is responsible, he starts down the steep and slippery slope of his own demise.

              As Dorian’s sins grow worse over the years, his likeness in Basil’s portrait grows more hideous. Dorian seems to lack a conscience, but the desire to repent that he eventually feels illustrates that he is indeed human. Despite the beautiful things with which he surrounds himself, he is unable to distract himself from the dissipation of his soul. His murder of Basil marks the beginning of his end: although in the past he has been able to sweep infamies from his mind, he cannot shake the thought that he has killed his friend. Dorian’s guilt tortures him relentlessly until he is forced to do away with his portrait. In the end, Dorian seems punished by his ability to be influenced: if the new social order celebrates individualism, as Lord Henry claims, Dorian falters because he fails to establish and live by his own moral code.

              Source http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/doriangray/canalysis.html