New Phrases: Colour

Posted by Charlie @ Discovering Mandarin Thursday, 6 August 2009
Colours in Mandarin

Having had to experiment and explore Chinese grammar today, with the help of a couple of my friends on twitter, I learnt the way to incorperate colours into sentences. First of all though lets go through a couple of the basic colours. Each colour ends with 色 sè

白色 (báisè) White
黑色 (hēisè) Black

红色 (hóngsè) Red
黄色 (huángsè) Yellow
蓝色 (lánsè) Blue

绿色 (lǜsè) Green
紫色 (zǐsè) Purple
橙色 (chéngsè) Orange

Colours are descriptive of an object and when used as a description you put the suffix 的 de following the colour. This makes it clear that you are talking about the preceeding object being that colour. If you are just saying that something generic is a colour you need not place 的 (de) at the end of the colour. But if it is in reference to something specific then 的 de is required.

zhèxiē huā shì zǐsè de
These flowers are purple.

zhèxiē lánsè niǎo dàn hěn xiǎo
These blue eggs are quite small

zhè zhī xióngmāo shì hēisè hé báisè de
This panda is black and white.

Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó guóqí shì hóngsè hé huángsè de.
The Chinese* Flag is red and yellow.

Hopefully this gives you a starting grasp of colours and how they are used within Mandarin sentences. I have only just learnt this today, and am glad to share it with you.


* 中华人民共和国 (Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó) actually means The People's Republic of China.

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  1. Puerhan Says:
  2. I might be completely wrong since I am a student on Mandarin also, but I would write these as follows: -

    --> 这些花是紫色的 OR 这些花紫色

    --> no change OR 这些蓝色鸟蛋是很小的

    --> 这个熊猫是黑色和白色的 OR 这个熊猫黑色和白色 (although why anyone would make such a statement I don't know, since Panda's are black and white!) 一个 = "one"

    --> ...红色和黄色. OR ...是红色和黄色的

    Maybe a native speaker will chip in again and give more guidance though!

  3. Good point about the Pandas Puerhan, although I was trying to find something vaugley relavent to China with two colours. :p Pandas happened to be fairly useful fitting into both categories. :D

    Both you and my friend Wanchi has advised that the correct sentence is :

    zhèxiē huā shì zǐsè de

    Not sure why I forgot 是.

    As you spotted when using two colours; seems I was a little over zealous using 'de'. It only is required at the end, although it my not be required when using two colours at all, still working on finding that one out:


    Wanchi also said that this is a correct way of saying the sentence;

    zhè zhī xióngmāo shì hēisè hé báisè de

    though in fact it is common to shorten it to this;

    zhè zhī xióngmāo shì hēi báisè de

    Again I made the mistake of putting 'de' in twice after each colour, so the correct way is:

    Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó guóqí shì hóngsè hé huángsè de.

    seems to be more correct as I understand it now.

    But I may well still be wrong.

    I am open to learning, and glad to have the corrections. We are doomed to fail; only if we cannot learn from our mistakes.


  4. I have updated this post with the corrected versions the sentences as discussed above.


  5. Anonymous Says:
  6. 这只熊猫是黑色和白色的。

    Literally, this sentence actually means "This panda is black and white" rather than "The panda is black and white".

    Although, we don't have articles like "the", "a" and "an" as in English. We normally omit 这只 in the above sentence when making a general statement, ie, "panda is black and white".

    So, 熊猫是黑色和白色的 is more natural if you're referring to something general. Better still, 熊猫是黑白色的

    Here's my two pence.

  7. Thanks for the additional comments. We have had discussion about whether you would actually have the classfier within the sentence.

    There doesn't seem to be a clear answer either way. There have been people vouching for both ways.

    Agreed 黑白色 seems more appropriate, is this only for black and white, as opposed to say, 红黄色?

  8. Anonymous Says:
  9. By the way, I wasn't saying that 这只熊猫是黑色和白色的is wrong. But it's more natural without 这只. Say if the panda in your photo was blue, then 这只熊猫是蓝色的 is perfectly fine because we don't 'normally' see blue panda!?

    红黄色 to me is like a mixture of red and yellow. We'd normally say 红黄双色 (lit. Red and yellow double colour) or 红黄两色 (lit. Red and yellow bi-colour).

    Alright, I need to charge you for more questions now. Ha ha... Just kidding. Just ask if you're in doubt

  10. Ramses Says:
  11. I love these post, keep them coming!

    But please be sure to put up correct sentences, as I think many people (including me) use them for learning.


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