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I read many examples asking about the color of something. So, about the color, should "什么颜色" or "什么颜色的" be used?

你的眼睛是什么颜色?What color are your eyes?

橙子是什么颜色的? What color are oranges?

我分辨不出这是什么颜色。 I can't tell what colour it is.

4 Answers 4

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...什么颜色 or ...什么颜色的 may both be used. However, their constructed sentence have different analytical structures in the grammatical sense.

In your other question, you may have already seen an example of Chinese grammar, that some words are implied.

The two complete sentences are as follows:

你的眼睛是什麼顏色? What color are your eyes? 什麼顏色 acts as a noun

你的眼睛是什麼顏色的(眼睛)? What color(ed eyes) are your eyes? 什麼顏色 acts as an adjective


Here I analyze them using grammatical concepts.

Step 1:

/-Subject-\/-Predicate-\         <--- Step 1
  你的眼睛    是什麼顏色?

/-Subject-\/--Predicate---\      <--- Step 1
  你的眼睛  是什麼顏色的(眼睛)?

Step 2 & 3:

/--Subject--\/-Predicate-\            <--- Step 1
/-M-\   /-H-\/-P-\ /--O--\            <--- Step 2
  你  的 眼睛   是   什麼顏色?

/--Subject--\/-----Predicate------\   <--- Step 1
/-M-\   /-H-\/-P-\ /------O-------\   <--- Step 2
|   |   |   ||   | /--M--\    /-H-\   <--- Step 3
  你  的 眼睛   是   什麼顏色 的 (眼睛)?

M: Modifier
H: Head
P: Predicator
O: Object

Here we see a pattern: (Modifier)的(Head). Modifier is a fragment that describes the Head. For example:

  • (你)的(眼睛). Eyes -> whose eyes? -> your eyes
  • (什麼顏色)的(眼睛). Eyes -> how are the eyes? -> What colored eyes

As you can see, the two questions are asking for different answers.

  • 你的眼睛是什麼顏色?asks for the color
  • 你的眼睛是什麼顏色的(眼睛)? asks for the eyes in what color

And so, the conversation should be as follows:

Q: 你的眼睛是什麼顏色? What color are your eyes?
A: 黑色。 Black.
Q: 你的眼睛是什麼顏色的(眼睛)? What color(ed eyes) are your eyes?
A: 黑色的(眼睛)。 Black color(ed eyes). 的 is necessary

Side note, you may also reverse the order of the question:

Q: 你的眼睛是什麼顏色? -> 你(的)眼睛的顏色是什麼? (We take out all but the last 的 in common situations, but the modifier behavior is still here.)
A: 黑色。

These two sentences are pretty much the same. Analytically, both are still asking for the color quality of "your eyes".

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你的眼睛是什么颜色=你的眼睛是什么颜色(的)

I thick 的 is not necessary.In formal rather we do not say 甚麼顏色的, We usually say 甚麼顏色.

In case of we you usually say "color+的" to describe the color of an object. So it can let few people add 的 behind the question.You heard 甚麼顏色的 may result in this.

的 can be more colloquial

Same pattern

Which department are you studying

你是讀哪一所門科系? 你是讀哪一所大學的?(less use or verbal)

Where are you from?

你從哪裡來?你從哪裡來的?(less use or verbal)

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Both of 什麼顏色 or 什麼顏色的 can be used. Because you can expected to get the answer both of 黑色 or 黑色的 no matter whether your question include 的 or not(assume that answerer have black eyes.) In this kind of situation, 的 can be included or not included.

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Let's convert the question to a statement:

  • 你的眼睛是什么颜色? -> 我的眼睛是红色。 (x)

The answer question may be confusing. The sentence may be simplified into 眼睛是红色. Since 眼睛 may not be a color, the sentence is incorrect. You should say 我的眼睛是红色的 instead. Due to the same reason, the question should be 你的眼睛是什么颜色的?


我分辨不出这是什么颜色

This one is correct. It can be converted into 这是绿色, which is perfect valid statement. 这 may be a reference to color.

But when you say 我分辨不出这朵花是什么颜色的, you should include 的 at the end of statement as discussed above.

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  • I disagree with your reasoning. Please see my answer. Although asking and answering with 的 is more commonly used, ones without should also be grammatically correct. Because you can reverse the order 你的眼睛是什麼顏色? -> 你眼睛的顏色是什麼? These two sentences are pretty much identical. Apr 11, 2020 at 8:30
  • @DanielCheung Your second example is correct. It would answer 颜色是绿色 and is valid as what I discussed above. But that doesn't mean the first one is correct.
    – tsh
    Apr 13, 2020 at 1:36

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