I've read that if two colors hyphenated for singular type that means it is combination colors. If not, then it has part colors like:

A1. A blue-green shirt is turquoise.
A2. A blue and green shirt is one which has parts that are blue and parts green.

but if we are talking about plural, then that doesn't mean combination, like:

B1. She has only blue and green shoes. Means: that all of the person’s shoes are either blue or green
B2. She has only blue-and-green shoes Means: that the person’s shoe collection consists only of shoes in which each pair is blue and green.

Same here:

C1. Yellow, pink, and red flowers refers to flowers colored yellow, pink, or red.
C2. Whereas yellow-pink-and-red flowers denotes tricolored flowers.

Which you prefer A1-2 or B1-2 OR C1-2

  • The A rules and the B rules look correct, but the C rules are confusing. I can't imagine ever writing "yellow-pink-and-red flowers". I don't think there is a single unambiguous way to refer to tricolored things like that.
    – stangdon
    Aug 29 '18 at 18:56
  • totally agree,but the essential question is>>why B2 different than A1
    – bande
    Aug 29 '18 at 19:40
  • A1 are combination colors {turquoise}.. B2 aren't ,, both of them are hyphenated
    – bande
    Aug 29 '18 at 19:43
  • Yellow-pink-and-red flowers seems very wrong to me for a tricoloured flower. For that, omit the and: yellow-pink-red flowers. Aug 29 '18 at 19:44
  • Using hyphenated words to describe colors is most useful when the colors are not ones for which we already have a name. So blue-green is more easily read and more accurately called aqua or teal. Same for pink-red which would better be called magenta or fuchsia. I would use the hyphenated form for green-brown or blue-orange.
    – EllieK
    Jan 5 at 21:58

These rules seem overly prescriptive.

We do sometimes use the two colour names to indicate an intermediate colour. So "A blue-green shirt" is a turquoise.

The expression "She has only blue and green shoes" in ambiguous. It could mean that she has some blue and some green shoes, or it could mean all her shoes are patterned blue and green. Using hyphens can reduce that ambiguity in written English. But if a completely unambiguous sentence is required, then you would have to rephrase.

The example with flowers is similarly ambiguous. If it matters, then the expression could be rephrased. The hyphenated form is ugly and difficult to say, so wouldn't be used in practice. Normally it doesn't matter much if the flowers are individually red, yellow and pink, or pattern with red, yellow and pink, so the ambiguity can be allowed to remain.


phrases with multiple hyphens appear unwieldy. "yellow-pink-and-red flowers" would be uncommon; most people would describe "flowers that have swirls of yellow, pink, and red" rather than using the multiple hyphens. It is a longer description, but easier to read and say.

But, in general, those rules are grammatically correct.

  • yeah you are totally right, but it has a different meaning when it is hyphenated and when not, I am afraid it would come in my exams
    – bande
    Aug 29 '18 at 18:47
  • I have no problem with A1.2 but with B,C1.2
    – bande
    Aug 29 '18 at 18:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.