Which part of the speech are the words deep and purple in the following sentence?

She dyed her hair deep purple.

  • 1
    "Deep-purple" is best analysed as a compound adjective and thus hyphenated. Likewise, "dark-blue", "pale-green", "white-hot", "icy-cold" and similar compound adjectives
    – BillJ
    Dec 9, 2020 at 16:02
  • 1
    @BillJ I believe you should write this as an answer with a little more explanation. Otherwise I will put your comment as a community-wiki answer, if you don't mind that is. Dec 9, 2020 at 17:07
  • colors are not necessarily hyphenated like suggested above. light blue, dark blue, deep blue, clear blue. etc.
    – Lambie
    Feb 16, 2021 at 18:30

3 Answers 3


deep purple, deep red, deep [color] is the same as bright:

deep color

"A deep color is a dark or medium color that is relatively bright".

Does the part of speech really matter? It can be considered a two-word noun.

Colors are complicated and this explains the "technical meaning".

So, one can consider purple a noun for a color and deep as an adjective. Or, one can see deep purple as a single unit and a noun.


"deep purple" can be treated as a single adjective. If you want to break it down, "purple" describes the hair, and "deep" describes the particular shade of purple.

  • I don't think this is correct. If we draw the tree diagram for the phrase deep purple we will end up with two adjectives, and this is not possible. an adjective cannot modify another adjectives.
    – Khelil
    Dec 9, 2020 at 13:45
  • I am alternating between two different interpretations. The first is that deep is an adjective while purple is a noun. the second interpreation, is that deep is an adverb while purple is an adjective. But we cannot have two adjectives in succession !
    – Khelil
    Dec 9, 2020 at 13:48
  • It is common with colours like that to treat them as one adjective. The adjective "deep purple" describes the hair. As with everything in English, there are exceptions.
    – Llama Boy
    Dec 9, 2020 at 13:52
  • ok I see your point. I was trying to draw the tree diagram for this sentence in a grammar class, but couldn't decide on the analysis of this particular phrase. Thanks a lot for your response
    – Khelil
    Dec 9, 2020 at 13:55
  • That's fair enough. To be honest, when you look at it in a very technical way, it's a very strange phrase. I suppose descriptions like this come from our use of colours as nouns, for example saying "I like bright red", where "red" is a noun and "bright" is an adjective. Nonetheless, it's perfectly fine to use those kinds of colours as adjectives.
    – Llama Boy
    Dec 9, 2020 at 13:58

This problem arises when we confuse naming systems with what is being named. Names are a matter of social convention: a horse does not stop being a horse because the Germans call it “pferd.”

Let’s consider two sentences.

She really does like dark purple

She wore a dark purple dress.

Does it make any difference whether we view “dark purple” in the first sentence as a compound noun describing a subset of colors in the set of purple colors or view it as an adjective “deep” modifying the noun “purple” in order to limit the range of colors denoted by the bare noun? The whole phrase is the object of “like” and can sensibly be described as a limitation on or modification of the field of meaning of “purple.” in other words, the phrase in its entirety names a set of colors; whether we analyze it as an adjective plus noun or as a compound noun is completely a matter of convention.

A similar issue arises with respect to the second sentence. The phrase “dark purple” has an adjectival function with respect to “dress.” It is just arbitrary convention to describe that function as being achieved through a compound adjective of “dark purple” or through “dark” being used adverbially to modify the adjective “purple.”

My personal preference is to view it as a compound word that can be used as a noun or an adjective, but that is just opinion. The important thing is to recognize that the phrase can be used as a noun or as an adjective. So long as deeper analysis confirms that, the deeper analysis is valid.

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