Do these sentences have identical meanings and are they grammatically correct?

  1. What colour is her hair?
  2. What is her hair colour?

1 Answer 1


The question asks is "the colour (of her hair)" the same as "her hair colour"

Normally these would be equivalent. Sometimes, in context, "hair colour" might mean the same as "hair dye", so it would be possible, in context, for "What is her hair colour" to mean "What brand of hair dye does she have?". The first expression is the normal way of asking about someone's appearance.

  • 2
    It's worth pointing out that the second form is mainly restricted to contexts where the two-word collocation hair colour is being treated as a "category" for matching purposes. So What is her hair colour? can be lumped together with What hair colour is she?, same as, for example, What shoe size are you?, What fuel type is your car?, etc. (where it's also okay to reverse those elements and query what colour hair, size shoe, type fuel.) These "noun attribute" versions typically occur in the context of hairdressers, shoe salesmen, auto mechanics, etc. Commented Aug 5, 2020 at 12:55
  • @FumbleFingers Would it be possible to put up such interrogations as: 1."What colour carpet is there in the kitchen?", 2."What coloured carpet is there in the kitchen?", 3."What colour is the carpet there in the kitchen?", 4."What is the carpet's colour there in the kitchen?", 4.""What is the colour of the carpet there in the kitchen?". Thank you.
    – Eugene
    Commented Feb 27 at 20:48
  • Who has carpet in the kitchen?
    – James K
    Commented Feb 27 at 21:01
  • @Eugene: Expanding on the implications of James' response, "What colour carpet is there in the kitchen?" would be "unusual" - it presupposes that the questioner is interested in knowing the different colours of various carpets in the relevant context (your house?), and it specifically presupposes the questioner knows you have carpet in your kitchen. In the real world, it's difficult to imagine #1 being asked as a natural question, but syntactically / idiomatically, it's fine. None of your other suggestions are idiomatic, mainly because of the ways they use the word "there". Commented Feb 28 at 0:01
  • @FumbleFingers Thank you. I had been turning over the construction "There is/are X in the Y" and possible ways of asking questions about the colour, size etc. of X considering the presense of an adverbial modifier. It seemed interesting to me how could "What colour is the X?" transform if an adjunct (of place, for example, were to be added)? "There are carperts in the living-room and in the bedroom in my new home". Someone wants to ask a question about the colour of the carpet in the bedroom.
    – Eugene
    Commented Feb 28 at 8:40

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