Character, characters, characteristics

When we travel to new places we get to meet people with different characters.

Literally this means that when we travel we meet people like Mickey Mouse!

Characters (countable)

Indonesian flag watak

These are usually fictional, for example Spiderman is a character, and so is Snow White. If they are performed by actors, then the actors are said to be in character. When actor Christopher Reeve was wearing his Superman costume he was in character – he was not himself, he was Superman!

Christopher reeve as Superman
Christopher Reeve as Superman

Sometimes we refer to someone as a character if they have a particularly colourful personality. Such a person is usually very popular and probably quite extrovert, always telling jokes and stories.

John is a character!
John is a character!
  • My mate John is a real character! He’s always telling jokes and has so many stories to tell about his adventures!

Character (uncountable)

The uncountable form of character is used to talk about a person or a thing that has endured difficult circumstances or experiences and as a result has won our respect and admiration.

Castles have character
Castles have character

Older people have character
Older people have character

An old building that has been beaten by storms and is covered in moss can be said to have character. Similarly an old man or woman with missing teeth and wrinkles that tell a story can also be said to have character.

Yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur
Round-the-world yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur

People can acquire character as a result of certain life experiences that involve self-discipline such as military training or certain extreme sports – so-called character-building activities. These people are often older because it takes time to acquire the kind of experience that develops character. However this is not always the case. An attempt to sail around the world solo would almost certainly give a person character.

Characteristics

Indonesian flag sifat / ciri khas

These can apply to people as well as things, and cover not only personality but also appearance and other physical factors.

  • A typical solid body bass guitar has specific characteristics.
  • (= colour, sound quality, size, etc.)
  • These characteristics are typically evident before age 3.
  • (= behavioural, physical, psychological)

This is probably the word our writer was looking for in the opening example (above).

  • When we travel to new places we get to meet people with different characteristics.

Often the adjective form is used when talking about the characteristics of people in different locations and cultures.

  • Violence as a part of public protest is very characteristic of the French.
  • A characteristic of Indonesians is their tendency to avoid confrontation.

Notice that you need to add the preposition ‘of’ when using the adjective form!

Practice

Now try this practice activity.

Select words from the drop-down menus to complete the text. When you have finished, click 'Check your answers!' for feedback.

OK I understand


My old school building . It was built in the fifteenth century and is covered in ivy. The walls are made of solid stone. The school sport was rugby and our team was the best in the county. We were lucky to have some great players including ‘Bugsy Burns’. He . He used to make fun of the opposite team so as to distract them. Old buildings, playing rugby, studying Latin and Greek – all of these are of English grammar schools. The chief , however, has to be a strict headmaster. The level of discipline was very high and the headmaster was determined to develop in his students.

Answer Key

Answers here, but only if you're really stuck!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>