What is meant by the following sentence?

What colour dress did you buy?

Does it mean the same as what colour is the dress you bought? Could that mean that colour means that the dress was full of colour? This sentence is from this dictionary.

  • 1
    By referring to the other simple examples listed in the dictionary, it certainly means What colour is the dress you bought?. If by full of color you meant having multiple colours, then Which colourful dress did you buy sounds neater. But, again, I think the most likely meaning is just *what coulour is the dress you bought?'.
    – Norbert
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 19:22

2 Answers 2



What colour dress did you buy?

has the same meaning as

What colour is the dress you bought?

It does not necessarily mean that the dress was full of colour, by which I would expect it to be multicoloured, a floral pattern for example. It could be just one single colour, blue for example.


If you look carefully at the dictionary entry that gave you the quoted sentence, you will see that it is given as an example of one meaning of "color," a meaning that is countable. That meaning references a specific one, such as red, blue, yellow, mauve, cyan, teal, etc., from the general category of colors. That meaning is signaled by the interrogative "what." The answer expected is something like "The dress is crimson" or "the dress is blue and green."

The other meaning of "color" represents either the entire category or the general effect of the category. A "blaze of color" is not specifying any particular color. As the dictionary points out, this meaning is not a countable noun. It does admit of degree however. So the question might be framed

How much color does the dress have?

where the expected answers might be

It has a lot of color

or, to the contrary,

It is quite subdued

Like all words with multiple meanings, context or syntactical clues (such as the use of "what" versus "how much") or the two together will usually prevent ambiguity.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .