Is 'the color purple' a syntactically sound sentence? Or would 'the purple color' be a more standard version. I'm basing this on the fact that adjective-noun order seems a more acceptable syntax.

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    It is not a sentence because a sentence has at least a subject and a verb. I think you mean is it a syntactically sound phrase.
    – stangdon
    Sep 20, 2018 at 16:11
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    The idea that a sentence is “a group of words expressing a complete thought” has been widely discredited—even though it contains a good deal of truth. But it is true that many single words can be sentences, as C.T. Onions observed: “Many single words or self-contained groups of words, of any size, may perform the work of a sentence. "Yes" and "no" are long-established sentence-words; they are equivalent to sentences. The grammarian James Sledd wrote aptly that “no useful definition can be framed to include all and only the things [that] are often called sentences.” Sep 20, 2018 at 18:17
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    @MvLog I agree with your point. But barring more context, in which the color purple could be considered an elliptical sentence along the lines of yes (that's what I think), it can't really be considered a sentence. We don't have any basis for it to be meaningful on its own. (Aside from its meaning as a book and movie title, which is different.) Sep 21, 2018 at 4:31
  • @MvLog - OK, then; "the color purple" is not a full-formed sentence. Yes, a lot of things people say as "sentences" are not necessarily subject-verb sentences, but if therefore you say "A sentence can be anything at all", I don't think that's useful for a learner, because it doesn't give us any way to distinguish between, say, "Train running" (which could certainly be something somebody says) and "The train is running" (which is a classically well-formed sentence).
    – stangdon
    Sep 21, 2018 at 12:08

1 Answer 1


It depends on what you want to say. Both are perfectly acceptable.

Saying "the color purple" you refer to purple which in this case is a noun. Purple is a color.

On the other hand, "the purple color", you're referring to the color which is purple and in this case purple plays the role of the adjective.

  • To add an example: "My favorite color is the color purple. That's why I like the purple color of this painting." Sep 22, 2018 at 7:04

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