Did you know that color is just an illusion?
No, I have not gone crazy. The truth is that color does not really exist!
Color is just the way our brains try to make sense of light.
Imagine a yellow banana.
Every person reading this imagines a different shade of yellow, because every person’s eyes and brains work together to see the light in a slightly different way.
Crazy, and awesome!
But even if we all see color differently, it remains an incredibly important aspect of human life.
Colors help us make sense of the world around us.
They allow us to communicate with others, describe the world around us and can even affect our memory.
That is why it is important to know colors in Spanish if you want to be able to hold a conversation.
But knowing the words for the colors is not enough—after you are done with this post, you will also know how to use them in sentences.
Let’s get started!
Common Spanish Colors: Starter Pack
Here you have a list of the most basic colors and their translations. I have added an article and a noun to each of them so you can start getting familiar with their use:
amarillo (yellow) → el submarino amarillo (the yellow submarine)
azul (blue) → el cielo azul (the blue sky)
azul marino (navy blue) → la camisa azul marino (the navy blue shirt)
blanco (white) → la nieve blanca (the white snow)
dorado (gold) → la puerta dorada (the golden gate)
gris (gray) → el humo gris (the gray smoke)
marrón/castaño (brown) → el tronco marrón (the brown log)
multicolor (multicolored) → el libro multicolor (the multicolored book)
naranja/anaranjado (orange) → la naranja naranja (the orange orange)
negro (black) → el gato negro (the black cat)
plateado (silver) → la luz plateada (the silver light)
púrpura/morado (purple) → la lluvia púrpura (the purple rain [like the song!])
rojo (red) → los labios rojos (the red lips)
rosa/rosado (pink) → la flor rosa (the pink flower)
turquesa (turquoise) → el agua turquesa (the turquoise water)
violeta (violet) → la falda violeta (the violet skirt)
verde (green) → el paisaje verde (the green landscape)
Want to hear some colors in action before you move on? Take a moment to browse a collection of color flashcards on FluentU.
You can see the words in use in various situations and even further your vocabulary as you explore thanks to the interactive videos within the flashcards and the annotated subtitles.
Want to add even more color to your vocabulary? Check out FluentU’s other video offerings.
The Different Shades of Spanish Colors
If we take into account the countless shades a color can have, we would be naming colors until the end of the world.
There are many colors that are just very specific shades of other colors.
Take, for example, the color blue. We have: blue (azul), navy blue (azul marino), sky blue (azul cielo), azure (celeste), cobalt blue (azul cobalto), cyan (cian or azul verdoso), ultramarine (azul de ultramar), etc.
The same happens with the color green. Some of its shades are forest green (verde bosque), apple green (verde manzana), mint (verde menta), pistachio (verde pistacho), etc.
And the list goes on and on for every simple basic, true color.
It is not our task to learn hundreds of color names and shades, so do not worry about this.
OK, so you know already like a zillion different colors in Spanish. You also know they have many different shades.
But apart from knowing the names of the colors and having read a couple of examples, do you really know anything about them?
In the following sections you will have your first contact with the grammar of colors.
Do not panic! I am not going to bore you to death with an endless list of grammar rules. What follows is just a useful guide so you can use Spanish colors in sentences and feel like a pro.
Here we go!
The Grammar of Spanish Colors: The Complete Beginner’s Guide
Now that you know the name of so many colors in Spanish, it is time to have a little fun with them.
Learning new vocabulary is fun, but vocabulary is not very useful by itself.
The following sections will guide you through the grammar of Spanish colors and will teach you how to use them in a sentence like a native speaker.
The Gender of Spanish Colors
It may come as a surprise to you that colors can have a gender, but that is one of the magical things about the Spanish language.
As you will see in the next two sections, the gender of colors in Spanish is not something you can just stick to them and call it a day.
A color’s gender varies depending on whether it is functioning as adjective or as noun and whether it is being modified by another adjective or noun, so I like to define colors as gender fluid.
There are exceptions and sub-rules you will get to know in a few minutes, but here are two general rules you can memorize right away:
- When a color is functioning as an adjective, it will always agree with the noun it is modifying.
- When a color is functioning as a noun, it will always be a masculine noun.
In other words, colors have genders and their gender depends on what they are doing in the sentence.
Do not get too stressed by this, though, because most of the time, colors just act like they are supposed to: as descriptive adjectives.
Colors as Adjectives
Colors help us describe objects, animals, people, etc. They are descriptive in nature.
It is no wonder, then, that they are mainly used as adjectives in Spanish.
Even if you are beginning your adventure with the Spanish language, you probably already know that nouns and adjectives must agree in gender and number. All of them do that.
So how and when do we do that if the adjective is a color?
First of all, let’s go back to the color list I gave you at the beginning of the post. If you take a closer look, you will see that there are four possible endings for a color in their dictionary form: -o, -a, -e or a consonant.
This means we can separate them into two big groups of colors, one for colors ending in -o and one for the rest of them.
Colors ending in -o
The group of colors ending in -o includes all the colors that behave like normal adjectives.
This group is defined by two major rules:
- They follow the noun they modify (all descriptive colors do this).
- They have four forms: masculine singular, feminine singular, masculine plural and feminine plural.
The form you use depends on the gender and number of the noun being modified.
Colors that end in -o have four different endings:
|male singular||female singular||male plural||female plural|
Let’s use the color blanco (white) as an example and make sentences with four different nouns:
El gato blanco (m. sg.) está en la cocina. (The white cat is in the kitchen.)
No encuentro mi camisa blanca (f. sg.). (I can’t find my white shirt.)
No me gustan los pantalones blancos (m. pl.). (I don’t like the white trousers.)
Las paredes blancas (f. pl.) son aburridas. (White walls are boring.)
See? It is really easy!
Once you memorize the color, the only thing you have to remember is to change its ending so that it agrees with the noun. That is all!
Here are a few more examples so you can see this in action. Pay attention to the colors’ endings!
¿Has encontrado el bolígrafo plateado? (Have you found the silver pen?)
Me gustan mucho los gatos negros. (I like black cats a lot.)
La taza roja es mía. (The red mug is mine.)
Las botas amarillas cuestan 20 euros. (The yellow boots cost 20 euro.)
Juan tiene un mechero blanco. (Juan has a white lighter.)
Colors ending in -a, -e or a consonant
Those other colors that do not end in -o are contained in this group.
You are going to love these colors: They only have two forms, one for the singular and one for the plural.
They are not gender specific, so they do not have special feminine forms. Just learn the basic form, make it plural and you are ready to go!
Apart from that, they are just like any other color functioning as an adjective. They modify a noun and follow it. Easy!
Do not believe me that these are easy? See for yourselves!
Me gusta “La Pantera Rosa.” (I like “The Pink Panther.”)
He perdido el bolígrafo rosa. (I have lost the pink pen.)
Tomás ha comprado unos cuadernos rosas. (Tomás has bought some pink notebooks.)
Las rosas rosas son mi flores favoritas (Pink roses are my favorite flowers.)
In the examples above, the word rosa is modifying four different nouns, but only changes if the noun is plural. See how simple it is?
The same is true for all other colors in this group. Here are some more examples:
El vaso verde es de María. (The green glass is María’s.)
Mi hermana ha encontrado una rana verde. (My sister has found a green frog.)
Tengo unos pantalones azules. (I have a pair of blue pants.)
Nunca he visto ballenas azules. (I have never seen blue whales.)
“Locked in” colors
There is one last thing you should know about colors functioning as adjectives.
When writing or speaking in Spanish, whenever you have the combination noun + color + adjective/noun, you need to remember that the color and the adjective/noun parts get “locked in.”
This means that no matter what gender or number the main noun is, the color and the adjective/noun will remain in the masculine singular form!
See? The Spanish language loves you and wants to make your life easier!
Here you have some examples:
Quiero los pantalones rojo pasión. (I want the scarlet pants.)
Tengo una bufanda rosa oscuro. (I have a dark pink scarf.)
Antonio me ha dado sus gafas azul marino. (Antonio has given me his navy blue glasses.)
Necesito pintura verde esmeralda. (I need emerald green paint.)
The most commonly used color modifiers in Spanish are the adjectives claro (light) and oscuro (dark):
azul claro (light blue)
azul oscuro (dark blue)
Because of the locked-in rule, both color and adjective become invariable, so no matter the gender or number of the noun, they will remain the same:
el libro azul oscuro (the dark blue book)
la camisa azul oscuro (the dark blue shirt)
los libros azul oscuro (the dark blue books)
las camisas azul oscuro (the dark blue shirts)
This means you have less things to remember!
Colors as Nouns
Colors can also act as nouns. Awesome, isn’t it?
When a color functions as a noun, it will always be masculine, no matter what!
Accordingly, it will only accept masculine determiners:
El negro es un color elegante. (Black is an elegant color.)
El rosa es mi color favorito. (Pink is my favorite color.)
No me gusta el verde de esa pared. (I don’t like the green color on that wall.)
Like any other Spanish noun, colors acting as nouns have a plural form.
Remember that since they are always masculine nouns, the only plural form they accept is also the masculine:
Me gustan todos los rojos. (I like all shades of red.)
Los naranjas te quedan muy bien. (Orange colors suits you very well.)
Finally, if you have a color acting as a noun followed by a noun (like in some of the “locked in” color examples), the color can have a plural form, but the noun/adjective will always remain in its basic form:
No me gustan los azules marino. (I don’t like navy blues.)
Los rosas palo no me quedan bien. (Pale pinks don’t suit me well.)
Había una habitación pintada con tonos verdes esmeralda. (There was a room painted with emerald green shades.)
Talking About Colors
There are many expressions in Spanish that use color, but for this section, let’s focus instead on how to actually use these colors in typical sentences!
I have tried to keep it simple so that beginner students can start using the sentences right away in their conversations in Spanish.
So let’s talk about colors, shall we?
¿Cuál es tu color favorito? (What’s your favorite color?)
Mi color favorito es el amarillo. (My favorite color is yellow.)
¿De qué color es tu…? (What color is your…?)
¿De qué color es tu coche? (What color is your car?)
Mi coche es de color rojo. (My car is red.)
¿Te gustan los tonos…? (Do you like shades of…?)
¿Te gustan los tonos verdes? (Do you like shades of green?)
¿Afectan los colores a tu estado de ánimo? (Do colors affect your mood?)
¿Cómo te hace sentir el color…? (How does … make you feel?)
¿Cómo te hace sentir el color azul? (How does blue make you feel?)
El color azul me tranquiliza. (Blue soothes me.)
And now give yourself a pat on the back and be proud for being a super master of Spanish colors!
This may feel like an awful amount of information to you, but you do not need to learn it all at once. Take your time and study one section before starting the next one.
You will be so happy when you realize you not only know how to name the colors in Spanish, but also can have a conversation about colors and use them properly!
Be proud of yourself!
Francisco J. Vare loves teaching and writing about grammar. He’s a proud language nerd, and you’ll normally find him learning languages, teaching students or reading. He’s been writing for FluentU for many years and is one of their staff writers.
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