Describe the Atmosphere with Adjectives and Idioms


When talking about places or events it is often interesting or necessary to describe the atmosphere. How did it feel to be there? People want to know details like this so they can imagine the situation. This is true both when speaking and writing.


Usually when we talk positively about the atmosphere of a place, we talk about a friendly or welcoming atmosphere. It may also be described as a warm atmosphere. However, one idiom that is often used is in the following example:

I like that restaurant because I feel at home.


When describing the atmosphere of a meeting or a conference, it may be said that the atmosphere is lighthearted. If it seems that people are want to achieve their goals by working together, it might be described as a cooperative atmosphere.

If there is a busy atmosphere, why not try this:

It’s a hive of activity.

A hive is a place where bees live, and bees are busy, so this idiom is easy to understand. Because the noise bees make is called a hum, the expression might be changed to:

It’s humming with activity.


When talking about a sad atmosphere, the adjective gloomy tends to be used a lot. Another way to describe it may be sombre (British)/somber (American). You may also say the atmosphere is mournful unless a funeral is being described, in which case it is too obvious because ‘mournful’ means ‘sad about someone dying’. It might also be described using the following example:

As soon as I entered the room I could see it was full of sorrow.

The phrase ‘full of ~‘ followed by a noun of feeling is often used to describe atmosphere.


If the atmosphere is tense, or there is a lot of disagreement or dislike, the atmosphere may be described as follows:

You could cut the air with a knife.

The adjective ‘palpable‘, which means ‘easy to feel or understand’ is also often used with a noun of feeling.

The tension was palpable.


Places that have no noise are often described as sterile or even like the next example:

The library was like a vacuum.

There is also an old cliche:

The room went so quiet you could hear a pin drop.

What’s the atmosphere like where you study English? Why not leave a comment?