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


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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