+44 (0)20 7605 4123 Student Login

Rough or smooth?

This week I’ll be introducing seven words which are used literally to describe physical properties and metaphorically to informally describe different types of people. Again, they’re all words which my non-British friend wishes she’d known before moving here! But a word of warning – none of them is very complimentary!

So, first of all we’ll look at the literal meanings of each adjective but as you’re reading them see if you can guess what type of person each one describes.

Wet - when something is covered in or full of water.  If you get caught out in the rain, you get wet.

Thick - this is the opposite of thin for objects such as books.  For example, a magazine is usually thin, but a dictionary is usually thick.  The more pages a book has, the thicker it is!

Hard - the opposite of soft!  To be firm and difficult to break. 

Soft - not hard!  So for example, pillowscushions and comfortable chairs are soft.

Rough - not smooth, having an uneven surface.  If you do a lot of physical work without wearing gloves, your hands become rough.

Smooth - the opposite of rough.  When a surface doesn’t have any holes, lumps or uneven parts we describe it as smooth.  For instance, silk is a very smooth material. 

So let’s see if you predicted correctly!

Wet - someone who is wet does not have a forceful personality and is not very brave or go-getting.  At school I really hated hockey and usually stood still or tried to avoid the ball.  My games teacher would shout ‘Don’t be so wet!’

Thick - quite simply, ‘stupid’.  If you want to be really rude, you can say someone is ‘as thick as two short planks’.  This means ‘extremely stupid’.

Hard – someone who is aggressive and able to defend themselves.  Boxers, bouncers and policemen are usually hard.

Soft – if someone is soft they are a little bit too emotional and not ruthless enough.  But if you say to someone ‘Don’t be soft’ it generally means ‘don’t be silly.’

Rough – this is pretty insulting; someone who is charmless, rude and possibly physically unattractive is ‘rough’.  We can also use it to describe a neighbourhood – in this case it means the same as dodgy (see Dodgy, cheeky, dizzy and flaky!)

Smooth – means ‘charming’, ‘sophisticated’, and ‘elegant’, but if you tell someone that they're ‘smooth’ it's a back-handed compliment because it suggests that the person is not very genuine. And if someone is so smooth that they become ‘oily’ this is a straight insult.  Both smooth and oily are usually used to describe men, but of course this is a little sexist. 

So, wet, thick, hard, soft, rough, smooth and oily; which one are you?

By Laura 

Improve your confidence in spoken English with our General English course or Individual English training in our centre in London or online.


pillow (n.) - the cushion that you rest your head on in bed

cushion (n.) - a cloth bag filled with soft material that you can sit on

silk (n.) - fabric produced from the thread of silkworms

go-getting (adj.) - energetic and determined to succeed

plank (n.) - a rectangular piece of wood using for building

bouncer (n.) - an informal British English word for the security guard/doorman of a nightclub

ruthless (adj.) - so determined to succeed that you will harm other people to do it

back-handed compliment (n.) - when you say something nice to someone which has a hidden insult

About The London School of English

The London School of English has over 100 years of history teaching English and communication skills to adult learners. It is the joint #1 English language school in the UK according to the British Council inspections, the highest rated English language school in the world on Trustpilot, and the best value for money school according The English Language Gazette. 

Our practical, individualised approach enables our clients to learn effectively and make rapid progress. Courses include General English, Individual English training, Legal English, Business and Professional English, IELTS preparation and Academic English. We also offer bespoke business solutions for staff training and assessment. 

You can learn English with our expert trainers in our London centre at 15 Holland Park Gardens, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, or you can choose to study English online in groups or in individual classes. Contact us online or via phone +44 (0) 207 605 4142.

All articles Next article

Post your questions and comments: