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Register Character

Character refers to the way a person behaves, his manners and general behavior. Character can also be viewed as a person’s disposition, nature, personality or temperament. Some people can be described as being vain, others fearless while others can be described as selfish among a lot of possible characters.

As has already been said in our discussion of manner┬áthere is a difference between manner and character. While manner refers to the way a person is behaving in the current situation, character refers to the general way a person normally acts. Character is determined after we have been acquainted with a person for sometime allowing us to be able to determine their general behavior. During the ZIMSEC examination we are not given this luxury and are instead asked to make what amounts to an educated deduction of a person’s character based on their utterances in the given questions.

Some forms of character can described as bad or negative. For example a person can be described as vain, arrogant, dishonest, rude, reckless, selfish, insolent and reckless among other things. On the other hand some forms of character can only be described as good or positive. For example people can be described as fearless, brave, courageous, likable, charismatic, compromising, forgiving and agreeable. In between the two are some forms of character which cannot be so easily classified. Some characters for example can either be good or bad depending on the circumstances for example indifferent, neutral, proud and aggressive.

Whenever you are presented with a register question asking you to give the character of an individual involved in an exchange in the exam you should be specific as to what side of a person’s character is being exhibited within a given register exchange. For while many character descriptions can be used to describe one person, for example a person can be proud and fearless, usually in register questions in the exam a light is shone on only one of these personality traits, which trait you are supposed to identify.

It would not be enough therefore for you do simply describe a given person’s character as simply being bad or good as the two words have meanings which are too broad as the make them meaningless. In fact the two are not acceptable answers at all and if you use them you can be guaranteed you will not be getting any marks.

Go to the English Notes Home page and have a look at the most common types of characters. Try to find out and learn the exact meaning and description of each character so that you will be able to more accurately identify the character in the exam. You can also practice with your friend(s) by looking at each character and creating scenarios to demonstrate each of these characters.


1. Tapiwa spends the day away from home and both his parents do not know where he has been. When he finally gets home and his parents quiz him he says:

i) “I am not a baby anymore. I can look after myself.”

ii) ” I am sorry for making you worry so much. I will not do it again.”

In each case say what kind of person Tapiwa is. Number your answers separately i) and ii).


i) He is rude/crude/unfeeling/lacks respect/ill mannered.

ii) He is respectful/sympathetic/polite/concerned.

Comment: Although the question does not directly ask for character it is implied in the phrase “what kind of person”. A lot of people, especially those to whom English is a second language would be tempted to give haughty, proud, selfish or bad mannered as the answer in i) and they would be wrong. None of these words mean the same as character shown by Tapiwa in this instance and the confusion stems from direct translation. Again you should find out the precise meanings of common character descriptions.Describing Tapiwa’s character as bad mannered would just┬ábe vague.

Similarly apologetic and repentant would not be accepted as answers in ii) for while Tapiwa is certainly being apologetic and repentant both words describe his manner rather than his character. We have no way of knowing whether this is just a one time thing or if this is his general behavior.