https://www.duolingo.com/daKanga

Colors - quick reference

Link : loom ladder | Prev: Clothing | Next: Verbs: Present 1 | note: click on blue text for audio or links. // check out colors tips & tricks

  • As in English, colors in French can be either nouns ( e.g., le bleu de ses yeux : the blue of her eyes ) or adjectives ( i.e. describing words) (e.g. ses yeux bleus : her blue eyes ).
    When they are nouns they use their masculine form (I so far have not been introduced to any exceptions), except for the word - " the color " : la couleur.
    Note, when they are used as adjectives, colors come AFTER the noun. For more information, see colors .

  • The 5 BASIC high use colors - need to agree in number and gender to the noun they modify :
    Colors . . . masc.singular. . fem.singular . . masc.plural . . fem.plural
    white . . . . ♫blanc . . . . . . . . . . . . blanche . . . . . .blancs . . . . . . . . blanches
    black . . . . ♫noir . . . . . . . . . . . . . noire . . . . . . . . . noirs . . . . . . . . . noires
    grey . . . . . ♫gris . . . . . . . . . . . . . grise . . . . . . . . . gris . . . . . . . . . . grises
    blue . . . . . ♫bleu . . . . . . . . . . . . . bleue . . . . . . . . . bleus . . . . . . . . . bleues
    green . . . . ♫vert . . . . . . . . . . . . . verte . . . . . . . . .. verts . . . . . . . . . vertes

  • special spelling - for adjectives where the masculine singular ends ends in a : vowel + l , n, s, or t , generally for the feminine form you double the consonant and add a mute ~e ( i.e. " et at the end of violet" ).
    Colors . . . masc.singular. . fem.singular . . masc.plural . . fem.plural
    purple . . . ♫violet . . . . . . . . . . . violette . . . . . . .. violets . . . . . . violettes
    For colors - violet is the ONLY color word I am aware of that is affected by this rule - but it is handy to learn this - for other adjectives. ( check out here for more information. )

  • There are 8 color words that are exceptions to the standard rules for colors. And all 8 of them end in e , that are variable for their plural form ONLY. They are not variable for the masculine/feminine forms. As far as I am so far aware, there are only eight ( 8 ) of these exceptions.
    All others, even if they end in e , are invariable - being the same when referring to a masculine or feminine noun, or singular or plural.

color singular m/f plural m/f
crimson pourpre pourpres
mauve mauve mauves
pink rose roses
red rouge rouges
rose red vermeille vermeilles
scarlet écarlate écarlates
tawny fauve fauves
yellow jaune jaunes

nb. beware - yellow : jaune // young : jeune

Reference : learnfrenchlanguageguide

  • invariable : the word does not change its form, regardless of referring to a masculine or feminine noun, singular or plural.

    -brown : i.e. un/une/les ". . noun . .' marron
    -orange : i.e. un/une/les ". . noun . ." orange
    NOTE - there are many color descriptions that use nouns from other objects, that have come into use to describe a color - because of their distinctive hues ( i.e.café / coffee ; argent / silver ; cerise / cherry ) - all are invariable in their use for either masculine or feminine nouns, or singular or plural. This very large group.
    Check out https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/1805655$comment_id=2836307 , by sitesurf.
    "l'homme a des chaussures marron": "marron" does not take the -s mark of plural, because "un marron" is also a noun (chestnut). The rule is that whenever a color is also a noun from which the color is derived, that color remains invariable (no fem, no plural). Other example: des chaussures argent (silver).

    "bleu" is a pure adjective, like "rouge" or "jaune" or "noir" or "blanc". All of them follow the general rules of agreement in feminine and plural.

Also check out https://www.thoughtco.com/invariable-french-adjectives-1368796 - Les adjectifs composés : adjectives of color composed of more than one word remain invariable - using their masculine form.
Une voiture bleu marin. : A sea blue car // Une voiture bleue : A blue car
Reference here

  • Some common color modifying words:
    claire : light // foncé : dark //
    pâle : pale // uni : plain (UK), solid (US)
    As these then make un adjectif composé , the compound adjective remains invariable - using their masculine form.
    La jupe vert foncé. : The dark green skirt. // La jupe verte : The green skirt.
    Check out here

  • The color brun for brown - has also a special twist , for use when describing the color of hair and bears (mostly. . ) , do not use marron , instead use brun... :
    Color . . . masc.singular. . fem.singular . . masc.plural . . fem.plural
    brown . . . . . brun . . . . . . . . . . . . . brune . . . . . . . . .. bruns . . . . . . . . . brunes ..

    brun : usually used for
    'The brown hair:' " Les cheveux bruns. " . . (m) , and
    'A brown bear ' : " Un ours brun. " .
    In all other cases (other than " hair " and " bears " ), it seems safer to use " marron ". There maybe other exceptions - but until you get a hang of the minor nuances, it is probably wiser to use marron for all other situations. See below for more info.

The word is roux , used to describe red heads - as in those with red hair.

ie. Mary est rousse. : Mary's got red hair.
Elle est rousse. : She's a redhead.
John a les cheveux roux. : John's got red hair.

It would be wrong to say "Kanga a les cheveux rouges". Unless the hair has been died in a bright crimson red color.

March 26, 2015

33 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/lemelisk

One thing I would like to add is that, in Canada, Brun is almost always used instead of Marron. In france, I think marron is used most of the time, except when talking about bears & hair, in which case brun is used.

March 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/daKanga

THANK YOU lemelisk - I love finding out things like this :)
How does brun change for masculine, feminine and plural ?

March 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/daKanga

OK - so this is what I have found ....
-Wordreference has a simple explanation with examples.
-Wiktionary is also worth checking out.

And some great discussions about this controversial subject :
-antimoon
-brun v. marron
-wordreference
-wordreference again

Also from what I have read - the actual color marron when used in French is often not just the very deep reddish brown that english speakers often refer to as marron , but is often what we might call a darker brown in english.
And as lemelisk has pointed out - that canadians may tend to use brun rather than marron to describe the color of brown in many things.
PLEASE NOTE - I am not a native french speaker - I am just learning the language - and so - listen carefully to those who are native speakers, and try to understand their way to use this. As this is their language, not an imaginary language made up by those of us trying to learn their language. But be aware that some native speakers will have different usages. And remember - communications - is being able to express ideas and be understood by others. And language is constantly changing, and is different in different areas.

March 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/daKanga

Some sentence examples :
-Un ours brun : A brown bear.
-Un unique cheveu brun : a single brown hair
-Un homme aux cheveux bruns : A man with brown hair.
-Une femme aux cheveux bruns : A woman with brown hair.

(I originally had typed INCORRECTLY : Une femme avec cheveux brunes , as I had got my nouns mixed up - for in this sentence the noun which is the object of the sentence is the hair, which is masculine. Thus the masculine adjective needs to be used. See Colibribri's comments below. Thanks Colibribri ! Also I had got it wrong with avec and using no determiner . ALSO thanks Gavier - for helping to get things right ! (see comments below)

March 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Colibribri

Just a little correction from a native French Canadian: Une femme aux cheveux bruns (not "brunes".) The reason: "bruns" is an adjective for "cheveux" and since "cheveux" is masculine and plural, "bruns" will also be masculine and plural. :o)

March 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/daKanga

Thank you Colibribri. You will probably be right here ! :) I am just learning, and also I do typing mistakes. If you are ok - I will modify my comment above - and make note of the correction you have pointed out - with my mistake identified in brackets. Let me know if you are ok with that, or do I leave the original mistake in ? My problem is I hate it when I make mistakes and potentially lead people up the garden path - when I am really really wrong. I do not mind being corrected and being put on the right path. Thank you again Colibribri :)

March 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Colibribri

That's a great idea! I have no problem with that. Wishing you lots of fun on your learning journey. French is such a beautiful language. :)

March 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Gavier

Incidentally I don't think you can say 'avec cheveux' by itself . It would need an article in there (elle a les cheveux brun). But typically you see 'aux cheveux...' (une femme aux cheveux brun). Need a native to explain this better though as I'm not quite clear on it!

March 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Khaur

I can confirm that. You also have to say it that way for other physical attributes: la femme aux yeux bleus / au nez crochu.

It's not a banal formulation tough, it puts special emphasis on the attribute, making it a defining one. You kind of expect the person to be referred to in the same way in the future, or at least the attribute to have a special role to play. For a more neutral way to say it, you should use the corresponding adjective if it exists, or a subordinate clause.

You can also use it for clothes or accessories, again it makes it a defining attribute: la fille au parapluie jaune doesn't just have a yellow umbrella today, it's part of who she is (at least to the speaker). Avec un parapluie jaune would be a more punctual event.

NB: it's not a textbook thing, it may just be my personal interpretation (as a native)

March 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/daKanga

Thanks also Khaur ! I really appreciate it ! Thanks for helping all of us on this learning journey :) !

March 30, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/daKanga

Thanks Gavier - sorry for the delay in saying thanks - just had other things I had to tend to, and did not have the time to get my head around this. I hope you also will not mind I corrected my post above - as I am trying my hardest to NOT spread bad advice - but I am a student - and I am learning. Thanks for understanding. And a BIG thanks for helping me get things right !

March 30, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Gavier

Do you think we might say 'une femme aux cheveux marron' if we wanted to specifically mean chestnut coloured hair'?

March 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Khaur

No, marron is the broad class of colour. We do have châtain (from châtaigne—chestnut) for chestnut-coloured. It's almost exclusively used for hair.

We actually distinguish between brun and châtain for hair colour, so the lighter shades of brown are described in reference to châtain, not brun.

March 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/daKanga

Oh Khaur - you are BRILLIANT ! THANK YOU !

March 30, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/katlover13

WOAH, uh, so what does all that mean, I'm kinda confused...

March 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/katlover13

I mean, it's all cool, but I don't really understand most of it...

March 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/daKanga

Sorry to dive in the deep end :( Perhaps check out here. This is a different discussion on the issues of how to use color words in French. See if that might help - and keep asking questions !
I have just set this one up as a quick reference guide for myself - and in case it is useful to others. If you click on light gray words in the comments, and blue words in the header, they take you through to other links. To get back here - use the return/back key on your browser.

March 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Gavier

I didn't know that orange was invariable. So, orange oranges would be 'des oranges orange'. Interesting!

March 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/BastouXII

This is the rule of thumb to know if a color adjective is invariable : if the word is actually the noun of an object used to describe its color, then it is invariable. Be careful though because, as always, there are exceptions. Orange the color comes from the fruit, marron from the nut (chestnut), etc.

For more information.

March 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/FrenchFrenzy136

Thx u will help my revision

March 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/daKanga

For a more detailed look into colors , I recommend checking out :
- Learn French Language Guide

-The French Post 36 french colors

March 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/puppy7989

Thanks for these links Kanga. I have only seen mint green as vert menthe but the second link says menthe à l'eau!! Cute way to say it!

Something else you may not have come across yet is the suffix -âtre

When added to a colour, it has a sort of ish meaning,

eg blachâtre, bleuâtre, verdâtre

It is often cited that this suffix has a kind of "perjorative" tone - the colour is a bit "dirty" whereas we use ish more as a kind of vague description, if the colour isn't exactly one thing or another - there is not necessariy any negativity associated with it. I would love to hear a native's view on the "tone" assocoated with these modified adjectives.

March 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/BastouXII

It is often cited that this suffix has a kind of "perjorative" tone - the colour is a bit "dirty"

(Native here) You are right. If one wanted to convey the same meaning as the English suffix -ish (i.e. neutral), they would say ça tire sur le [couleur], or, as Gavier mentioned for blue, also applies to some others : bleuté, argenté, cuivré...

Also, some colour use the -asse suffix instead of the -âtre one, for the same effect : blondasse, marronasse...

March 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Gavier

Ooh! Thinking about it, is 'Bleuté' actually a pas participle (of the verb bleuter') so, meaning 'blued' (if there were such a word in English, we do have reddened) :-)

March 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/BastouXII

Well, I wasn't sure so I looked it up and the answer is both 'yes' and 'no'.

First, no, with this meaning, it is first and foremost an adjective. But, it is also the past participle of the verb bleuter, which could mean to get "bluer", but the preferred verb for that in French actually is bleuir (with its past participle being bleui), and there's another synonym, which has now fallen into obsolessence : azurer (from azure, the tint of blue that represents the sky, like the Côte d'Azure region in the South-East of France), and was mostly used in poesy only anyway.

The second meaning of bleuter (probably more used) is to skip classes in school, from the expression faire bleu, a calque from the German blau machen with the same meaning. This is something I learned while searching an answer for you because it is not used at all in Québec (where I live).

March 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Gavier

Thank you that was extremely interesting! I didn't expect anyone to go into such depth but it was a fascinating detour and I learnt plenty on route. :-) This class of -ir verbs are interesting in themselves grandir, rougir, pâlir etc...

March 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/puppy7989

Thanks Bastiou - great to know for sure. When I learnt it, I was told it meant -ish, but since then I had read that it was not a neutral term. Obviously it's one of those "as close as English has in a single word". situations. I really appreciate the additional ça tire sur.. expression - I fond it very musical, I like it a lot:)

March 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/daKanga

( ps puppy7989, BastouXII is one of my heros , I think he is great : )

March 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Gavier

Good one - I didn't know that!

Also how about 'Bleuté' for blue tinged. I came across this in the lyrics of 'Il nous faut régarder'

'Le ciel gris ou bleuté'' :-)

March 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/puppy7989

Hi Gavier - sounds like you enjoy music :) Just checking that you've heard of the site www.lyricstraining.com. It's great for those who enjoy learning language though songs. You can pick either karaoke mode (where the words appear as you watch the video and listen to the song) or "game" mode, (where depending on the level you pick, you have to fill in a certain percentage of missing words) You lose "strength" if you make mistake, are too slow, or have to replay or skip the word. There are numerous genres of music and many different artists (Trenet, Stromae. Piaf, Jonathan, Dion, Paris Combo - just to name a few)

March 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Gavier

Sounds great I'll check it out thanks! Mainly listening to Brel and Gainsbourg at the moment. Also Jaques Dutronc and Francis Cabrel. But mainly Brel, I'm a bit obsessed with it!

March 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/puppy7989

For Brel - they only have "Ne Me Quitte Pas", live from 1962. Such a beautiful voice. I also enjoy the liasions the older artists make and the real roll in the "r"- so beautiful. i t may have something to do with an accent but it seems to be commom with the older singers. Similarly, the English singers of yesteryear had extremely clear diction.

March 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/daKanga

Thank you puppy7989 ! I have learnt another new thing :)

March 27, 2015
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