Now for some basic color words in French!
You might even recognize a few of these colors:
Now we can use these color words as adjectives to describe things!
In English, when describing the colors of objects, the color goes before the noun that it modifies.
The black cat
The red horses
Same with any adjectives in English
The cute dog
The tall man
However, when describing the color of something in French, the color word goes after the noun it modifies.
Le chat noir
Le cheval blanc
Le chien jaune
Something else also changes when colors are expressed in French.
In French, nouns are divided into genders. This means that the article that goes before each noun changes depending on whether the noun is masculine or feminine. This concept of grammatical gender does not exist in English, though it did a VERY long time ago when our language was first evolving.
English has one definite article: the
The chair, the cat, the bed
French, on the other hand, has two: le and la
Le is used for masculine singular nouns.
La is used for feminine singular nouns.
Because of this concept of grammatical gender for each nouns, this means that any adjectives that interact with these nouns change their endings depending on the gender of that noun.
Watch what happens to la chèvre when we add a color to describe it:
la chèvre blanche
See what happened to the end of the word blanc? Because we are describing something that is feminine and singular, we have to add an -he ending to the basic word for white.
Many colors simply add an -e ending when they are feminine and singular:
la vache verte (yes I know this doesn’t exist, but it’s just an example!)
la poule brune
When they are feminine and plural, it’s easy: just add -es to most colors:
les araignées vertes
les chèvres bleues
Masculine and plural gets a simple -s ending for most colors:
les oiseaux jaunes
les hamsters blancs
As for masculine singular, the colors don’t have a special ending:
le chat noir
le chien rouge (Clifford!)
If you want to say that a color is either light or dark, simply add clair for light and foncé for dark after the color.
l’oiseau bleu foncé = the dark blue bird
le chat orange clair = the light blue cat
la vache marron clair = the light brown cow
le chien jaune foncé = the dark yellow dog
To help you see all of the endings for these colors, click here for a very helpful guide to color endings in French.
There have been several famous French songs with colors in the title and lyrics.
The famous French singer Jean-Jacques Goldman released an album entitled Entre gris clair et gris foncé (can you figure out what that title means based on what we’ve learned in this lesson?). Click here for the YouTube video where you can listen to the song.
A common expression in French involves the word for “pink”: voir la vie en rose. This means “to see life in pink,” literally, or we might say in English, “to see live through rose-colored glasses.” In other words, life looks great! There is a famous French song with this expression by none other than the legendary singer Edith Piaf, a song called La vie en rose. Click here to visit a YouTube video to listen to this song.
And last but not least, a more recent song uses the word noir, a mysterious sounding song by the singer Christophe Willem, called L’homme en noir (The man in black). Click here to listen to the song.
Homework (les devoirs)
When you have learned these words, you can visit this site (hover over the word “site” for the link) to play a game for reviewing the colors!