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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