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Spanish Palette: Words and Rules to Make Your Speech Colorful
Learn the names for basic colors in Spanish and study the rules that will help you use color words in speech!

The Spanish word for “color” may have the exact same spelling as its English counterpart, but it has a different pronunciation (koh-LORR) and a whole bunch of rules attached to it! And you will learn them all in less than half an hour! Let’s start now!

Spanish Palette

Before you start, take a closer look at this color scheme – it will make it easier for you to work with the examples you find below!

Spanish color words are easy to remember if you use the right technique

While you do, you might also want to label some colored objects in your home with stickers with Spanish color words to make memorization faster!

Word Order

The first thing to remember about using ‘colorful’ words is that they follow, not precede, the item they describe.  E.g.:

  • A black shirt – una camisa negra
  • I have red boots – Tengo unas botas rojas.

In English, it would look like “a shirt black,” “boots red.”

However, if the color adjective describes a quality that is inherent to an object/phenomenon, it comes before the noun:

  • The blue sky. – El azul cielo.
  • The green grass. – El verde césped.

Number and Gender

When paired up with nouns denoting objects and phenomena, names of colors are adjectives, so they need to be matched in number and gender to the Spanish nouns they describe.

Gender

Usually, the form you learn adjectives from disctionaries is singular masculine.

To change the gender of a color adjective, look at its final letter first.

If it is an O, simply change it to an A and you’ll get a feminine color adjective. E.g.:

  • A white coat – un abrigo blanco
  • A white jacket – una chaqueta blanca

If the color word ends in anything other than O, it does not change to match the noun:

  • A green tree – un árbol verde
  • A green table – una mesa verde
  • A blue bow – un lazo azul
  • A blue ribbon – una cinta azul

Please note: if a color word you find in the dictionary ends with an A (e.g.: violetaesmeralda), it is NOT feminine; it is a color word that ends in anything other than O, and it needs to be used accordingly.

Number

To make a color word match a noun in number, you need to look at the final letter again.

If the final letter of the color word in the singular is a vowel, add S to make it plural:

  • A pink scarf – una bufanda rosada
  • Pink mittens – unas manoplas rosadas

Please remember to match the gender of the color word to that of the noun as well!

  • Yellow socks – unos calcetines amarillos
  • Yellow leggings – unas mallas amarillas

If a color word in singular ends with a consonant, add ES to make it plural:

  • A gray sock – un calcetín gris
  • Gray socks – unos calcetines grises

Complex Color Words

Complex words – the ones that consist of two or more parts – are used to describe shades like “lime green” or “navy blue.” They do not need to agree in gender and number with the noun they describe. If this is your case, use the color name in singular masculine form:

  • a cherry red top – una camiseta rojo cereza

50 Shades Darker and Lighter

If you need to specify the color as light or dark, use the Spanish words claro for lighter shades and oscuro for darker shades. E.g.:

  • A light gray cardigan – una rebeca gris claro
  • A dark red suit – un traje rojo oscuro
  • He has dark green eyes. – Tiene unos ojos verde oscuro.

Please note that some color shades are not described as light or dark, they have a completely different name (e.g.: light blue – celeste). However, if you use the claro/oscuro variant, you will still be understood perfectly well.

Color Associations

There are color words in every language that stem from names of objects that have the same color.

In English, you can describe something is “amethyst” or, say, “amber-colored.” I am happy to announce: the same rule holds true for the Spanish language!

Take a look at the examples:

  • A jade (green) camisole – una camiseta jade
  • Amber leaves – unas hojas ámbares
  • A lilac skirt – una falda lila

So, if a color word escapes you, go for an association and be sure that Spanish-speakers will get you!

Color Words in Action

We’ve already examined all sorts of word combinations that include color adjectives. Now, let’s see how the color words work in sentences!

Still a Match

First, you need to remember that even if you use it as a part of a complex predicate, like in

My dress is orange,

the color word is still an adjective and has to agree with the noun it describes:

Mi vestido es anaranjado.

More examples will make the rule clearer:

  • His sweatshirt is yellow. – Su sudadera es amarilla.
  • Your trousers are brown. – Tus pantalones son marrones.
  • Our slippers are pink. – Nuestras pantuflas son rosadas.

Ser and Estar

In most cases, the Spanish verb you need to say that something IS of some color is ser, because it describes a permanent state, and things do not normally change their color all of a sudden.

There is one exception, though, and it concerns objects and phenomena that usually have one color, but in this particular situation their color is different, and you need to emphasize the change. E.g.:

  • The sky is blue. – El cielo es azul.
  • Today the sky is almost black. – Hoy el cielo está casi negro.  

Foolproof Color Rule

If you are still not up to speed with all of these rules of agreement, genders, and numbers, rely on this very simple color formula:

De color [name of the color]

The trick is that you needn’t change the color word in any way to still speak perfectly correct Spanish!

Examples:

  • The sweater is purple. – El suéter es de color morado.
  • The sandals are emerald. – Las sandalias son de color esmeralda.

 

Phew, that was long! And now, let’s see if you grasped all about number-gender agreements, complex adjectives, and so on!

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