Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Have you heard somebody referred to as a “teddy bear” in English?

Do you know what this means or anybody that you could describe as this?

This is a way to describe somebody, or to describe their personality or how they are perceived.

This describes a very sweet and kind person, like above and beyond the norm.

Calling somebody a teddy bear may actually be contrary to what you may think of them at first—and that’s what we’re focusing on today is a different personality than you might originally perceive.

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Things Aren’t Always As They Appear

So we’ve talked about how somebody may not always be exactly what you think they are.

Sometimes personality traits can be deceiving, or you may not know somebody for who they really are until you get to know them.

We talked about a teddy bear, and how this can describe somebody who is very kind and sweet.

You may also think of a teddy bear as being someone who might appear tough on the outside but has the opposite personality in real life.

This is common as sometimes people don’t show their true self until they get to know somebody better.

This may make you think of the expression “don’t just a book by its cover.”

Let’s look at a couple of examples that may help you to understand this idea.

  • Maybe a wrestler: This may typically be a very large, muscular person that you think might be tough, but they actually have a very sweet disposition. You might think “Oh he may look really tough in the ring, but trust me, he’s a teddy bear, especially with his kids.”
  • A bouncer at a club: You might think that this is a tough guy who doesn’t put up with a lot. You may even be intimidated by this person at the door. You might hear “I can’t believe he didn’t let you in! Don’t be mad at him. He’s really a total teddy bear even though he looks intimidating.”

Do you think women are ever called teddy bears?

It may occur to you that this label may be more of a male thing, or you may hear it used with men more often.

Other Expressions To Describe Personality In This Way

There are other expressions that you can use to describe somebody’s personality in this area.

This is a trait that pertains to so many different people, and so you can expect it to come up in conversation a lot.

So what are some other expressions that could be helpful in describing someone’s personality with this in mind?

  • A softy/softie: This is someone who may be emotional, and the type who cries at commercials for example. They may come across as soft or it may be a surprise that they are so emotional. This trait usually means that even the littlest thing can make them cry. This may have a positive or negative connotation, depending on how it is used. It comes down to intonation and it can be negative if you say it in a way as if to insult the person you are referring to. You might say something like “Oh man, I can’t say no to my dog when he asks for a treat. I’m such a softy.”
  • All bark and no bite: This is a bit different, as it describes someone who may say a lot of things, but they are “all talk.” You shouldn’t be afraid because they won’t actually do anything to harm you, even dealing with physical harm. Think of this with someone who yells a lot, but won’t actually do anything or be harmful in any way. This is like saying that they may come across as mean or aggressive, but they are actually a really nice person at the core. You may say “He gets really loud sometimes when he’s frustrated, but really, he’s all bark and no bite.” Another thing you could say would be “Oh he likes to trash talk, but don’t worry, he’s all bark and no bite. He’s not actually good at football!”
  • Tough on the outside, soft on the inside: This is the same sort of idea, and you can almost visualize this phrase. It’s referring to somebody who may look or appear tough or even intimidating, but on the inside they are really actually very kind and gentle. You might say “My husband is 6 foot 5, so people find him intimidating. Honestly, he’s tough on the outside, soft on the inside.” Another way to use this is to say “My professor was super intimidating at first, but now that I know her, I know she’s just tough on the outside, soft on the inside.
  • A hard shell: You can almost visualize this and think of something like a turtle or maybe a piece of candy. It’s as if somebody puts up some sort of wall and you can pick up on that. This person probably is not hard on the inside, but could be a bit tough. It’s like saying that this person can take a lot or they are resilient, or even that they may be hard to get to know. You might say “She’s got a hard shell, but she’s one of the nicest people. These phrases are great to use in conversation, and can be helpful in trying to understand somebody’s personality.

Though you may think that you have somebody figured out, you just never know until you really get to know them.

These terms can be helpful in this area as you are getting to know somebody better.

Roleplay To Help

In this roleplay Lindsay and Michelle are talking about the teachers in their new gym class.

Michelle: “Jeff is the most intimidating teacher, I think.”

Lindsay: “You think so? I don’t know. He seems like a teddy bear to me. I find Tina to be a bit tough. She’s always yelling!”

Michelle: “Yeah, but she’s all bark and no bite. She always says you will have to do 50 pushups if you rest, but she never follows through.”

Lindsay: “That’s true. She’s got a hard shell for sure.”

Michelle: “Yeah, I guess. I think Tate is the best one. He’s a softy.”

Lindsay: “Yes, he’s so friendly! It’s funny, he’s tough on the outside, soft on the inside.”


These are super useful phrases for talking about people.

You may find that some personality traits are harder to detect than others, and that’s where these come in handy.

Try these out in your conversations, and see how they help you to speak like a native about something that may be quite common.

Remember to never judge a person by his or her cover, as that’s at the heart of this.

You just never know until you get to know somebody—and this thinking and aspect of conversation can help you to make lasting connections.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.  

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