Color Adjectives

French color adjectives
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Adjectifs de couleur

When colors are used as adjectives,* they usually need to agree with the nouns they modify in gender and number – but there are some notable exceptions.

1) Adjectives from nouns

Most colors that come from nouns (usually found in nature, like animals, flowers, fruit, and minerals) are invariable.

abricot apricot
amarante amaranthine
ambre amber
améthyste amethyst
ardoise slate-grey
argent silver
aubergine eggplant
avocat avocado
brique brick-red
bruyère heather
café coffee
canari canary yellow
caramel caramel
carmin carmine
cerise cherry red
champagne champagne
chocolat chocolate-brown
citron lemon-yellow
corail coral
crême cream
cuivre copper
ébène ebony
emeraude emerald green
fraise strawberry
framboise raspberry
grenat garnet
indigo indigo
ivoire ivory
jade jade
kaki khaki
lavande lavender
lilas lilac
marine navy
marron brown
noisette hazel
ocre ochre
olive olive-green
or gold
orange orange
paille straw-colored
pastel pastel
pastèque watermelon
pêche peach
pervenche periwinkle
pie piebald, black and white
pistache pistachio-green
platine platinum
prune plum
puce puce
rouille rust-colored
rubis ruby red
sable sand-colored
safran saffron-colored
saphir sapphire-blue
saumon salmon-pink
sépia sepia
tabac tobacco brown
tango bright orange
tomate tomato red
topaze topaz
turquoise turquoise
vermillon vermillion

These two colors are also invariable:

auburn auburn
pers blue-green

 Exceptions

a. Châtain (chestnut) doesn’t agree in gender, but it does in number.

b. These adjectives derived from nouns follow the normal rules of adjective agreement:

alezan chestnut
fauve fawn
incarnat rosy, crimson
mauve mauve
pourpre crimson
rose pink
vermeil  vermillion
violet  violet

2) Connected Colors

When colors are combined, agreement depends on what exactly the colors are describing.

a. Multiple nouns with different colors (some are one color, some are the other) = agreement

des maisons blanches et vertes white and green houses (white houses and green houses)
des fleurs rouges, orange et jaunes red, orange, and yellow flowers (some red, some orange, some yellow)

Remember that the adjective orange is invariable no matter what.

b. Multicolored noun(s) = no agreement

des maisons blanc et vert white and green houses (white houses with green trim)
des fleurs rouge, orange et jaune red, orange, and yellow flowers (each flower has all three colors)

You can see here how French agreement adds useful information that is lacking in English, which requires clarification to avoid confusion.

3) Compound Colors

Colors made up of two or more words are always invariable.

a. Two colors

une maison bleu gris blue-grey house
la robe vert jaune yellow-green dress
des crayons rouge violet red-violet pencils

b. Color + adjective

une voiture vert clair light-green car
la peinture bleu intermédiaire medium-blue paint
des chapeaux rouge foncé  dark-red hats

c. Color + noun

une chemise gris acier steel-grey shirt
la voiture vert mousse moss-green car
des oiseaux jaune citron lemon-yellow birds

 * We tend to think of colors as adjectives, but in both French and English, they can also be nouns.

Par exemple…

Ma couleur préférée est le bleu.
Le bleu est ma couleur préférée.
 My favorite color is blue.
Blue is my favorite color.
Je préfère le vert. I prefer green.

 Related lessons

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Agreement with French colors

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