Tag Archives: Describing People

Describing people – Is vs. Has

She is blue eyes.”

My grade 5 elementary learners are doing descriptions of people at the moment. Most of the vocabulary gets picked up quite quickly: tall, short, thin, fat, long hair, big eyes etc. are no problem until it comes to using them in sentences, when suddenly constructions like “She is big eyes” or “I have tall” start to appear. This is a fairly common problem for Korean learners, as ways of describing people are very different in their L1. For example you literally say “height big” in Korean, as there is no copula with adjectives, and no concept of “tall” expressed in a single word.

It’s difficult to explain quite why and how you choose whether you need “has” or “is” for something like “long hair”, without using an awful lot of complex language which is of course way above the students’ level. In general I find it’s just better just to drill them until they produce the forms without thinking, but to help them in forming new expressions I came up with an easy and fun way to differentiate the two. The rule is:

If you can draw it separate from the body or face, use “has”. If you can’t, use “is”.

It also makes for a nice reminder for students when they make an error like “She is blue eyes” and you can draw something like the picture at the head of this post. Actually, that’s more creepy than anything else, but it seemed to work in my class.

As with everything in language learning, there’s an exception. I’ll leave you to guess what that is from this picture. Answers and other exceptions in the comments below.


Yes, I failed my perspective drawing class.


Toodle pip.