English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

This is much easier to explain by example. So you might hear someone say this photo of her is ok, but she looks much better in person.

I am looking for the equivalent of "in person" that applies to things, e.g.,

A photo of the house is on the museum's homepage, but it is more impressive [in person].

There doesn't seem to be a concise, elegant way to say this, though it seems there should be, perhaps a latin phrase like in corpore (that's not it).

share|improve this question
up vote 3 down vote accepted

I can't find a reference to back this up, but I would sometimes use the phrase "in person" for an object because in order to experience it that way you have to personally go see it. Since there is at least one person present it makes sense to me even if it might not be 100% technically correct.

I would not use it when there is no other person present:

The museum is more impressive in person (i.e. when you visit, it's impressive).

The curator of the museum was there in person (this works even if he's alone).

*The Mona Lisa was there in person (this doesn't work because no people are there).

So, depending on your needs, "in person" gets you half-way there.

share|improve this answer

'In person' refers to the entity experiencing the observed item, not the item itself.

So 'in person' doesn't matter whether that item is a person, inanimate, or whatever.

Use 'in person' since you expect (probably) that it is a person doing the experiencing.

share|improve this answer
+1 This is completely right. – onomatomaniak Dec 17 '11 at 8:39

You can use in actuality for your example sentence.

A photo of the house is on the museum's homepage, but it is more impressive in actuality.

share|improve this answer

At first hand or at firsthand is an appropriate phrase to indicate "when seen directly".

Example: "A photo of the house is on the museum's homepage. The house is more impressive at first hand than in the photo."

share|improve this answer

Although 'in person' works fine for things and people, an alternative would be 'in reality'. The photo is a (possibly inaccurate) representation of the house, not the real house.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.