While looking for usage sentences of word "ebullient" I found the following sentence on Cambridge Dictionary Website . I couldn't find out the meaning of the phrase "his usual _______ self" in this sentence. Does that mean he wasn't that energetic anymore?

He wasn't his usual ebullient self.

  • Could you add the definition you found, and why it doesn't apply? Actually, a common phrase might be "He wasn't his usual energetic self." Though I doubt many people would ever use or even know about ebullient.
    – user3169
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 21:54
  • Did you notice that the definition provided by the Cambridge dictionary is not only "energetic"? There are scores of other dictionaries which also define this adjective very clearly, and with many illustrative examples. This is something you ought to be able to figure out: don't give up! Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 0:57
  • 2
    @P.E.Dant - I don't think the OP is asking about the word ebullient. Rather, I think this question is about the construct his usual helpful self, which would be understandably confusing for a learner.
    – J.R.
    Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 2:29

1 Answer 1


The expression:

He isn't his usual ______ self

means that a person usually has a certain trait, but, for some reason, they are not acting that way in the moment.

For example, if someone is usually cheerful and friendly, but they are acting grouchy, you might say:

She isn't her usual friendly self today.

On the other hand, if someone is often gruff and cantankerous, but for some reason was behaving friendly yesterday, you might say:

Did you hear Bob yesterday? He wasn't his usual grumpy self.

So, in the case of your sentence:

He wasn't his usual ebullient self.

That means he is usually energetic and outgoing, but for some reason wasn't acting that way at that time. Perhaps he was ill, or maybe he was just having a bad day.

The phrase usually refers to a short-term lapse in regular behavior, but I suppose it could be used for a permanent change. For example, we could say:

Bob just didn't seem energetic anymore; he wasn't he usually ebullient self. So, after a couple weeks of feeling exhausted, he finally decided to go see a doctor, where he learned he had Stage 3 cancer. That was such a tragedy.


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