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What are the different options for using colors predicatively? Particularly monosyllabic colors like 红, 蓝, 黃 that can appear with or without 色.


For context, here is a sentence using 红色 predicatively taken from a random Wikipedia article.

你   的    汽车     是不是         红色        的?
ni3  de0  qi4che1  shi4bu2shi4   hong2se4   de0
you  DE   car      COP-not-COP   red        DE
Is your car red?

The declarative form of this sentence is

你   的    汽车      是        红色        的.
ni3  de0  qi4che1   shi4     hong2se4    de0.

However, 红 is a verb by itself (unlike 咖啡色).

Is it possible to use 红 as the predicate of that sentence without the 是...的 construction? What are the different ways to use a short color as a predicate?

I can think of a few potential ways to do it, but none of them seem to work.

A) ?你    的   汽车     红
   ?ni3  de0  qi4che1  hong2 

(A) seems weird because the predicate is only one syllable. I think it breaks a Mandarin prosodic constraint.

B) ?你    的   汽车      很     红
   ?ni3   de0 qi4che1   hen3  hong2

(B) also seems odd, but I can't really say why.

C) ?你    的   汽车      红色
   ?ni3   de0 qi4che1  hong2se4.

(C) seems strange. I'm pretty sure 红色 is a noun and therefore cannot form a predicate by itself.

This question is similar to this one, but is not a duplicate of it because it's specifically about what things are allowed or disallowed in predicate position and why.

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1, “Adj 不 Adj?” is just a short form for "是不是 Adj 的?"

For example, I drink a lot of wine and want to know if my face turns red, so I ask my friend.

Q: "我的脸红不红?" A: "你的脸很红。"


2, "adj 吗" is an even shorter form.

Q: "我的脸红吗?" A:“你的脸很红。”


3, 红 can also be a verb but that means "turns red", there must be a transition.

Q: "我的脸红没红?" A: "你的脸红了。"

Ref: zdict 紅〈动〉(1)

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  • Thank you. Is (B) in my example "...很红。" grammatical? Does "...很红。" need context such as answering a question or making a comparison? Sep 21 '20 at 0:05
  • @GregoryNisbet I am a little bit confused by the leading question mark in A~C because your A ~ C looks like declarative forms. A and C are not correct, but B is grammatical. Here "很" is not compression and does not need context. 很 means "very" or “really” it is used to confirm the degree of red.
    – River
    Sep 21 '20 at 0:59
  • I used a leading question mark ? ... to show that I think the sentence is ungrammatical, sounds strange, or changes the meaning of "你的汽车是红色的". I guessed that (A) is wrong because the predicate is only one syllable. I guessed that (C) is wrong because "...色" must be a noun and can't form a predicate by itself. With (B) I wasn't sure whether adding "很" changes the meaning or not. Sep 21 '20 at 1:37
  • I laid out my question in a confusing way. What are the different options for using colors predicatively? Particularly monosyllabic colors like 红, 蓝, 黃 that can appear with or without 色 is the real question. The rest of the question is just an example and my attempt to come up with an alternative to ...是红色的. Sep 21 '20 at 1:46
  • @GregoryNisbet That is clear now. Actually, the question form of A, "你的汽车红吗?", is correct. I also added that to my answer.
    – River
    Sep 21 '20 at 1:59

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