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What is the most common way to say that 'something is red' (or any other colour)?

I ask this because grammar books (for example, Yip Po-ching and Don Rimmington's Chinese: A Comprehensive Grammar) usually make a distinction between 'gradable' and 'non-gradable' adjectives, as in 他很高 'he is tall' v. 這是假的 'this is false'. But colour adjectives seem to be a bit of a grey area and I'm not sure if using 很 or 是...的 is more appropriate (and when 色 sè can or should be added to the plain colour adjective).

So, if I want to say 'this car is red', which of the following options is better? Are they all valid?

1. 這輛汽車很紅。
2. 這輛汽車很紅色。
3. 這輛汽車是紅的。
4. 這輛汽車是紅色的。

5 Answers 5

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  1. 這輛汽車很(adv)紅(adj)。- This car very "red". (Not a good sentence, but acceptable. Better say "This car appears(看起來) very red".)

  2. 這輛汽車很(adv)紅色(noun)。- (Wrong)

  3. 這輛汽車是(v)紅的(adj)。- This car is "red". (good)

  4. 這輛汽車是(v)紅色的(adj)。- Same as above (note that 紅色的 = 紅的, both are adjectives.)

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  • Great answer, thanks. So I see "是紅(色)的", with or without 色, are both common. What about less basic colours like 'orange' or 'violet'? I suppose in "是橙色的", the 色 would be required. Is that right? Dec 23, 2022 at 11:27
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    No, the questioner anticipates the answer is about color, so 色 can be omitted. I personally call the color "orange" - "是橙子色的", here, 色 is required to indicate "the color of orange". Similarily, "violet" - "是紫的", "是紫色的" or "是茄(子)色的" all are fine.
    – r13
    Dec 23, 2022 at 15:34
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很紅 could mean very popular, and 紅色 could mean communism. So 1 and 2 could mean something else other than the colour.

  1. 這輛汽車很紅。(This car is very popular.)
  2. 這輛汽車很紅色。(This car is revolutionary.)
  3. 這輛汽車是紅的。
  4. 這輛汽車是紅色的。

3 and 4 are both fine.

An alternative that's more common is 紅色的汽車/紅汽車 (a red car). For example 他開了一輛紅汽車 (he drives a red car).

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很 usually used with the meaning of "to some notable extent", although it's less than "very" today.

if you intend to mean the color is vivid (possibly followed by why you like/dislike cars with vivid red color, you think a car with vivid red color is weird, etc.), 这辆汽车很红 is the better choice.

to express the fact in plain wording like reporting a car in a traffic accident to a policeman, 这辆汽车是红(色)的 is the more appropriate one.

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This is actually quite funny. An intentional pun?

Colour adjectives seem to be a bit of a grey area.
Los adjetivos de color parecen ser un poco zona gris/terreno desconicido/una laguna.

I think, like many languages, to give more emphasis to the colour, you can simply double up the word.

他送给她一支红玫瑰。
He sent her a single red rose.

O my luve is like a red, red rose,
啊,我的爱人象红红的玫瑰,

Or, for red at least :

她的脸变得通红。
She blushed bright red.

Or name a well known brand:

He has a Ferrari-red car.
他有一辆法拉利红轿车。

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All are valid except 2.

n. + 是 + adj. + 的 (勞動是重要的、這輛汽車是紅色的、他是高的) will be a little strange sometime because they are gradable adjectives. It is a bit of Westernized Chinese or translationese. I would suggest to use 很 (勞動很重要、這輛汽車很紅、他很高, of coure you can use 看起來 這輛車看起來很紅), but when the object is not really that red or that high, this can cause problems. So you can also say 這是輛紅車、這輛車有些紅、這輛車紅紅的. But using 這輛車是紅色的 is correct in grammar too.

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