Tuesday, 11 March 2014

What Colour Are The Trousers?

Introduction

This post is about the use of describing words/ adjectives in general, and more specifically about the use of the masculine/ plural form of a describing word/ adjective.





SCENARIO

Imagine you are talking to a relative, a friend or a work colleague. You are talking about a new pair of trousers you have bought. At some point the other person says to you something like: "what colour are the trousers?"

In Spanish, the other person could say:
¿De qué color son los pantalones?


OUR TIP
The question is an invitation for you to say what colour your trousers are. Here are some examples of how you could reply:





  • Son negros* (they are black);
  • Son blancos* (they are white);
  • Son marrones* (they are brown);
  • Son (de color) marrón claro* (they are light brown);
  • Son (de color) marrón oscuro* (they are dark brown);
  • Son azules* (they are blue);
  • Son (de color) azul marino* (they are navy blue);
  • Son grises* (they are grey);
  • Son rojos* (they are red);
  • Son verdes* (they are green);
  • Son amarillos* (they are yellow);

Now you should practise answering the question:
¿De qué color son los pantalones?

*NB See Grammar below

*Grammar-Adjectives


Gender
Number
Adjective
pantalón
masculine
singular
negro
pantalones
masculine
plural
negros
chaqueta
feminine
singular
negra
chaquetas
feminine
plural
negras
Noun-Adjective Agreement

See notes below on Noun-Adjective agreement

Noun-Adjective Agreement
As you can see above, in Spanish we use colours as describing words/ adjectives when saying what colour things are. Below follow some notes on how to choose the correct form of the adjective to say what colour something is.

Adjectives -Gender
When you use Spanish describing words/ adjectives, you need to bear in mind that for each describing word in English, there are often two related but different describing words/ adjectives in Spanish. The reason being that Spanish describing words/ adjectives have to 'agree' with the gender (masculine or feminine) of the person they describe. Most Spanish describing words have similar but separate words for each of the two genders (for example, rojo/ roja). A few, however have one single form (for example, verde).

Thus when you come to use a describing word to say what colour something is, you need to check whether the corresponding Spanish describing word/ adjective has:
  • One single form to describe both a male and female persons (for example , verde)
  • Two separate forms (for example, rojo/ roja).- If the describing word/ adjective has two separate forms, then you need to choose the form which matches the gender (masculine/ feminine) of the person to describe.

Adjectives -Number
When you use Spanish describing words/ adjectives, you also need to bear in mind that Spanish describing words/ adjectives have singular and plural* forms the same as nouns. A Spanish describing word/ adjective must also to 'agree' with the number (singular/ plural)** of the thing it describes. For example, pantalón rojo (red trouser) or pantalones rojos (red trousers).

*NB View posts with details about the plural of Spanish words here.
**NB Please note that when the describing word/ adjective is a colour which is in itself being modified by another describing word/ adjective (for example marrón claro) it is common to use the singular even with plural nouns, for example, pantalones marrón claro.

Adjectives -Use
All the practical examples in this post refer to trousers (plural), pantalones. Consequently, they require the masculine/ plural form of a describing word/ adjective, for example, rojos.

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