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Compound colour names and colour names derived from things are invariable

There are two cases of colour adjectives that never agree nor change:

- when the colour is described by a phrase containing two or more words (e.g. black and white, dark green, light blue)

- when the colour actually derives from a real thing like a fruit, material, animal (e.g. orange, chestnut)

Look at these compound adjectives:

Il a des yeux bleus, des yeux bleu clair.
He has blue eyes, light blue eyes.

Tu as une jupe blanche?- Oui, et une robe noir et blanc.
Do you have a white skirt?- Yes, and a black and white dress.

J'ai une jupe orange et des boucles d'oreille orange.
I have an orange dress and orange earrings.

Elles portaient des robes ivoire.
They wore ivory dresses.

 

 

See also regular colour adjectives: Colour descriptions change according to gender and number (adjectives) 

 

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

compound adjective


C'était une voiture verte.  - Oui, une voiture vert foncé.
It was a green car.  - Yes, a dark green car.


Il a des yeux bleus, des yeux bleu clair.
He has blue eyes, light blue eyes.


Tu as une jupe blanche?- Oui, et une robe noir et blanc.
Do you have a white skirt?- Yes, and a black and white dress.


noun


Elles portaient des robes ivoire.
They wore ivory dresses.


J'ai une jupe orange et des boucles d'oreille orange.
I have an orange dress and orange earrings.


Micro kwiz: Compound colour names and colour names derived from things are invariable
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Q&A

Lukas

Kwiziq community member

4 November 2017

2 replies

Les feuilles oranges?

In week 81 of the A2 writing challenge, there is a canonical translation "les feuilles rouges, jaunes et oranges". Why does "orange" have the -s suffix? I thought it was a color derived from a real thing and as such, it doesn't change.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

4 November 2017

4/11/17

Yes, you are correct. Some color adjectives -- namely those who are directly taken from the names of fruits -- remain unchanged and don't accord to the noun which they describe. It seems to me that there is an error in the lesson.

Would be nice if Amélie or Laura could chime in.

-- Chris (not a native speaker).

Chris

Kwiziq community member

4 November 2017

4/11/17

Just asked a native French speaker and she said that probably the vast majority would say "les feulles oranges" even though it is incorrect.

-- Chris (not a native speaker).

Tamani

Kwiziq community member

12 July 2017

2 replies

Des yeux noisette--Correct

I thought I was following the rule: this phrase is not a compound adjective, nor does the color derive from a real thing.

Laura

Kwiziq language super star

12 July 2017

12/07/17

Bonjour Tamani,

Des yeux noisette is correct because "noisette" is a real thing: it means hazelnut.

Tamani

Kwiziq community member

13 July 2017

13/07/17

Bonjour Laura,
Thank you! Yes, I googled 'noisette' and discovered it is a hazelnut. I wish I'd known that before taking the test!

Robyn

Kwiziq community member

24 October 2016

1 reply

So a compound colour always reverts to the masculine form?

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

24 October 2016

24/10/16

Bonjour Robyn,

Yes, because in French, the masculine singular form is considered as the "original" form which then changes according to rules of agreement. I know.... :)
I'll be right with you...