42

If a person wants to say that the most hated color for him is red (in general, no specific hues implied), could he say:

  1. I hate red color.

I've found very little results for this sentence at Google. Is this combination (red color) very awkward in its effect?

I guess the natural way is to say:

  1. I hate red.

But it's interesting why exactly the combination "red color" is unnatural in English in this context. In Russian, a similar phrase would be perfectly okay.

Is it because color calls for an article, and this would in turn call for the continuation of the sentence:

  1. I hate the/a red color of ... (something).

I've been proofreading one text at lang-8 and found myself unable to explain in simple words why hating "red color" could be an unnatural phrase.

  • 2
    In a similar vein, it's almost always "unnatural" to say "I hate old man", but "I hate the old man", "I hate an old man", and "I hate old men" are all unexceptional. And I have no real problem with "I hate red colours", which in some contexts might be a better choice than colouring[s], pigment[s], etc. – FumbleFingers Nov 17 '14 at 16:46
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    Consider also "He has perfect pitch, and can accurately identify [the] middle C frequency". To me, that's a bit "marginal" with or without the article, compared to "...accurately identify the frequency [of] middle C". But if there's an articulatable "rule" (or even just a tendency), it's not obvious to me how you'd describe it. We need John Lawler here! – FumbleFingers Nov 17 '14 at 16:55
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    @FumbleFingers But if "I hate red color" only sounds wrong because color is singular, then why does "I hate color" sound just fine? – Jack M Nov 17 '14 at 17:27
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    @JackM maybe it swiches to being a mass noun then? – CowperKettle Nov 17 '14 at 17:28
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    @JackM: What CopperKettle said. Compare "I hate [loud] noise" - where singular is a "mass noun" and plural is just more than one noise. – FumbleFingers Nov 17 '14 at 17:39

10 Answers 10

51

When "red" is followed by a noun, native English speakers will classify "red" as an adjective. If that noun is then singular (and the noun phrase is undetermined, i.e. has no definite article, indefinite article, or other determiner like "this" or "your" or something), then native English speakers hear the sentence as ungrammatical.

I hate red bicycles.

This one is grammatical because bicycles is plural. It is therefore like saying I hate bicycles but with the qualification that the bicycles are red.

I hate red meat.

This one is grammatical because meat is a mass noun, meaning it applies to a quantity of something, not a single something.

I hate red telephone.

This one, like I hate red color, sounds wrong because telephone is singular.

  • 4
    My only criticism is that "red beef" is a weird example. It sounds like you are trying to say that you "don't like beef cooked rare", albeit in a very non-native sounding way. "red meat" or "rare beef" make sense (but mean two different things), but not "red beef." I get that that is not the point, but I figured I'd point out that slight criticism. +1 overall for a clear answer. "Red algae" could make more sense as a mass noun, because of the issue with "red" meaning "rare" when used with meat. – Gray Nov 17 '14 at 21:10
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    'When "red" is followed by a noun, native English speakers will classify "red" as an adjective. If that noun is then singular, then native English speakers hear the sentence as ungrammatical.' <== Er, that doesn't sound quite right. Consider: "A red car is on sale". – F.E. Nov 17 '14 at 22:45
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    What you could say is "I hate the color red." Perfectly grammatical and idiomatic, with zero ambiguity. – Jason Patterson Nov 18 '14 at 2:56
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    @F.E. - Or, "The baseball dented a red car." But Ross is right, insofar as "Red cars are cool" is grammatical, but "Red car is cool" sounds like Tarzan-speak. I feel like there's a stateable rule here somewhere, but I'm having trouble putting my finger on it. – J.R. Nov 18 '14 at 9:12
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    The last example here can be corrected by inserting a definite article: "I hate the red telephone," but the original sentence cannot be corrected in the same way. ("I hate the red color.") I feel like there's some fine point there that needs addressing, but perhaps I'm wrong. – jpmc26 Nov 20 '14 at 2:49
29

I think the sentence that you are looking for is "I hate the color red." This sentence suggests that you have a certain hatred or dislike of the certain color red, regardless of its medium or location. This is also a much more common sentence than your other options. I hope this answers your question.

  • Thank you, Casey! Will that cover the color red in general, with all its different shades? – CowperKettle Nov 17 '14 at 15:55
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    If you want to extend your focus to all shades of red, your sentence also has to accommodate for that change. If I wanted to include all of the shades of red, you could simply say, "I hate all shades of the color red." This will provide the reader or listener with the correct extent and range of the color red that you dislike. – Casey LeClair Nov 17 '14 at 15:57
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    While you certainly could specify 'all shades' explicitly, I would personally take that to be implied if someone just told me that they hated the color red without specifying a particular shade. Actually, I would say this is the case for almost any subject. If someone told me that they hated Chinese food, I would take that to mean all Chinese food, not just one particular type of it. – reirab Nov 17 '14 at 16:52
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    This particular OP has good command of English (and probably better conscious awareness of such "formal rules" as are normally but unknowingly implemented by native speakers). So I don't think simply providing the "standard" phrasing (which I'm sure he already knows) answers the actual question as posed - "Why is 'I hate red colour' unnatural phrasing?". – FumbleFingers Nov 17 '14 at 19:54
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    Agree this answer does not answer the question of the OP. – user6951 Nov 18 '14 at 1:23
14

"Red color" is unnatural because the color red isn't red. Instead, it's just called red. Think about it: A color has no color. It is a color but it does not have a color, like for example cars or balloons do. So a color can't be red. And that's why there's no red color. There's just the color red.

Compare color vs. paint. "Red paint" is ok because red paint is red. Paint can have a color.

Also compare color with number. "The color red" ~ "The number two". Just because the number is called two, there is not two of them. It's not to be put in the plural as one could expect. That is, it's "I hate the number two" and not "I hate two numbers". But maybe there are languages in the world that do this.

I don't know about it, but perhaps there's no difference between color and paint in Russian.

Similarly, in my native language, German, both color and paint are translated with "Farbe":

"Ich hasse rote Farbe." = "I hate red paint."

"Ich hasse die Farbe Rot." = "I hate the color red."

Maybe it's the same with Russian?

  • 1
    "Is there anything you hate about my car? Yes, I hate the red color". Your hypothesis fails to explain why "the red color" is grammatically correct. It may not always be used in the right context, though. Compare: "Is there anything you hate about my car? Yes, I hate the color red" - this is a far more complex response. It implies that parts of the car are red, but that could be just the seats. – MSalters Nov 18 '14 at 14:37
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    @MSalters: Is "Yes, I hate the red color." really correct? Because you don't actually hate the color itself but you hate the fact that the car is red. So why not "Yes, I hate that it's red."? – moonring Nov 18 '14 at 15:38
  • @moonring: Looks grammatically correct to me. The meaning might or might not necessary be what you want. "Yes, I hate the color red" would indicate to me you hate the color, "Yes, I hate the red color (of the car)" would indicate you hate the combination of red on the car. Because you are clearly talking about the car, it's not required to add that last half of the sentence. – Dorus Nov 18 '14 at 15:48
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    I don't think either word gets stressed over the other. It gets uttered matter-of-factly, the same as if she said, "Because I hate the ugly tail lights," or "Because I want better mileage," or "Because I don't want a stick shift," or, "Because I want a better cup holder." It's simply a shortened version of, "Because I hate the color red on this car," which sounds a bit clunky. – J.R. Nov 19 '14 at 0:12
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    @moonring In Russian "color" ("цвет") and "paint" ("краска") are different words, but there are common expressions like "bright paints" meaning "bright colors" and "paints of the Fall" meaning "colors of the Fall". As for "red color" vs "color red", the first one sounds much more natural in Russian - that's why OP is asking. – alexanderlukanin13 Nov 19 '14 at 15:49
8

To answer your questions: Yes, the sentence "I hate red color" will sound awkward in most, if not all, English dialects.

In English, "red" can act as an object on its own, and adding something to the end of it will sound confusing. It would be like saying:

I hate Tuesdays days of the week.

which also sounds awkward. You can use a color as an adjective modifying a specific object:

I only ride green bicycles.

But when you're using "red" to describe the color itself, you just use "red."

That painting is red.

Fire trucks are usually red or yellow.

No elaboration is necessary. If you want to be more elaborate, you can, as Casey suggested, use the noun phrase "the color red," but it's not necessary: "red" by itself is perfectly idiomatic.

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    I'm not convinced anyone has fully nailed this one yet, but I certainly think your "Tuesday" example is apt here. – FumbleFingers Nov 17 '14 at 19:57
  • I hate tuna fish. – 200_success Nov 18 '14 at 0:01
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    @200_success Tuesdays days isn't a compound noun and neither is red colour. However tuna fish is :) – Araucaria Nov 18 '14 at 2:27
7

Colour

The noun colour can be countable, or uncountable.

1. Uncountable 'colour'

When we say colour in the uncountable sense, we are thinking about colour as a feature of the world. It is like light, or wetness. This feature cannot be counted.

2. Countable 'colour'

Usually, a countable 'colour' refers to a specific shade and type of colour:

  • I didn't like the colour of the dress

In the example above, the speaker means they didn't like that specific shade and type of colour. For example, they don't mean 'blue'. They mean that exact type and shade of blue. So, usually 'a colour' is a unique example of a specific colour, not a very general class of colour such as "yellow" or "red". If we say a red colour, then this means a type or example of a red colour (not red in general). We use the colour in the same way. It means a specific colour that we are talking about. So for example we can say:

  • I really like red colours, but I didn't like the red in that picture.

Notice that red is an adjective here. It is just describing colour. It is not being thought of as an entity of its own.

3. The noun 'red', The colour red

When we say the colour red, it is a bit like saying, my friend Bob. The first noun tells us the kind of thing we are talking about ( - my friend) and the second tells us what it is, or what its name is ( - Bob). This is an unusual use of the word colour in that it is used in an appositive construction. Saying I like the colour red is just like saying I like red. It means something like I like the colour which is 'Red'. Here red is a noun representing a type of colour.

4. I hate red colour

  • I hate red colour

If colour is uncountable here, this sentence is quite strange. It means that the speaker hates colour which is red. This is possible, of course. However, a speaker is more likely to think just that they hate red itself, not colour which is red.

On the other hand if colour is countable here, then there is a grammatical mistake in the sentence. If red colour is meant to mean all the different types of red, then because colour, in the sense of different shades, is usually countable, we would use a plural noun:

  • red colours

If we are describing a particular shade of a person's skin after they were in the sun too long, for example we would say they were:

  • a red colour

Because we are using a singular noun to reflect a specific example of a colour, we need to use a determiner. (Singular countable nouns must usually occur with a determiner. A determiner is a word like: a, the, this, my, his).

To sum up

In the Original Poster's example colour is not plural and does not have a determiner. It seems likely that the speaker hates the phenomenon 'red'. It seems unlikely for instance that they like colour - as opposed to greyness - but that they don't like red colour. The best description would therefore be that:

  • They don't like red!
  • -1 I hate red light. (light is uncountable). I hate white flour. (flour is uncountable) Second, humidity is not an example of heat. I hate dry heat. – user6951 Nov 18 '14 at 2:00
  • @CarSmack I don't get your point? Can you expand, please? – Araucaria Nov 18 '14 at 2:03
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    Have you explained why I hate white flour is different from I hate red color? Both flour and color are uncountable – user6951 Nov 18 '14 at 2:04
  • @CarSmack I thought I'd explained that with the a feature of the world bit in 1), by which I meant a quality of the world. So in that way, flour isn't really a property of the world! – Araucaria Nov 18 '14 at 2:20
  • @CarSmack ... I was going to put in something about red colour also basically entailing all reds and so being redundant - a bit like I hate all homo sapiens mamalhood. But, yes this quite tricky to put into words ... I was also trying to keep the vocabulary quite learner friendly, but this is already being stretched... :( – Araucaria Nov 18 '14 at 2:21
5

I'll add that in omitting the definite article (the), you are effectively making the object that follows red uncountable*:

The red car

The definite article makes car a countable noun; there is only one car.

Red cars

There is no definite article here, so cars is uncountable; we are talking about cars that happen to be the color red.

*Since you're talking about all red cars, cars is a countable noun, but we omit the article because we mean all cars, and not a particular number of cars.

I like red car

is ungrammatical because you have no definite article, and you mean all red cars, so car should be plural.

I like the red car

is grammatical because you have the definite article the, making car a countable noun, and therefore it should be singular.

I believe countability of car to be the root cause of the 'unnaturalness' of the phrase. Here's some further reading.

  • -1 You misread you own link, which says You use a plural count noun with no article if you mean all or any of that thing. See also #5 on that page. – user6951 Nov 18 '14 at 1:21
  • @CarSmack I wouldn't call it misreading, I would call it logic, and perhaps my perspective is different from that articles. If I say all cars, I mean all the cars possible. Can you count those? I can't. There's no way to know how many cars exist, even if we take only a subset (all red cars). Now, according to English grammar, it would technically be correct to say cars is a count noun in this case, though I disagree with the semantics. Edited. – Chris Cirefice Nov 18 '14 at 1:35
4

Yes, when used in that way, colour calls for an article. It would be grammatically correct if you added one.

Definite article:

If you were looking at some different colours including a red colour for which you didn't have a specfic name, it would be perfectly correct to say "I hate the red colour" or "I hate that red colour"

Indefinite article:

If you were describing a colour that you hated, you could say "I hate a red colour"

Otherwise the phrase can be modified to use "red colour" as an adjective: "I hate red coloured (something)"

3

The apparent intent of the first statement:

I hate red color

is to express hatred of red (all reds, of any tint or shade, everywhere), which is the sentence object and a noun in that context, and use "color" as a qualifying noun, i.e. "I hate red, and red is a colour". Basically a noun in place of an adjective, describing the nature of the object.

The absence of definite articles in Russian leads to confusion about the situations where one would need them and where one wouldn't. In this case though, a definite article is not required, but the word "color" is either redundant or insufficient to provide clarity of intent. It's redundant as Red is universally recognised as a colour. If the context absolutely requires a qualification, it would need to have more than just the noun to be a properly structured component of the main clause or a properly constructed auxiliary clause. Examples would be:

I hate Red as a colour

or

I hate Red - the colour, not the character in Fraggle Rock

As mentioned in other answers , you can change the word order :

I hate the colour red

making "the colour red" a proper name comprised of a common noun (colour) and a proper noun (red). The complete proper name is thus the object of the sentence. Proper names can often require a definite article in both the singular and the plural, e.g. "The Crazy 88".

You could also have:

I hate the red colour (on that car)

making "red" an adjective and "colour" the object. In that case though you would need to use the definite article as we are talking about a singular object. Moving to the plural removes the need for the definite article, but requires that we explicitly pluralise the object:

I hate red colours

(which again implies all red tints and shades everywhere).

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    Welcome to ELL, Dermot, and thank you for the good option "I hate red as a colour"! – CowperKettle Nov 20 '14 at 18:29
2

An item in the class Colors (i.e. "color") lacks the attribute "color". Thus, there is no place to attach a particular color (e.g. red) to "color".

Those items do have a "name" attribute, however.

-1

To be clear, although there are rules in the English language regarding grammar and proper English, as with most everything, this matter is completely affected by a person's perception. Even rules are affected by perception. The reason why this is important is that there are more than just two dialects of the English language, and not every dialect will agree upon the same rules. This is why there are dialects of most languages in the first place. Someone thought it sounded good, used it, and after enough people used it regularly, it became a dialect, regardless if it is official or not.

I may feel that it is not correct, but another dialect may say different. A lot of the answers here mix up the rules of grammar and do not particularly stay aligned with the sentence in question, as stated by Mari-Lou A. Yes, it is important to have a "rule" or standard (both mean the same in this case) that can be applied along a range of sentences. That is what makes it a rule or standard, but when you compare adjectives versus nouns and say that one is more correct than the other, you lean away from the original question by saying that something does not function properly, but rather than defining your reasons with semantics, you demonstrate it with another example that utilizes different semantics, which explains why someone else perceives that reason as incorrect. You may be able to reason an example of complete difference logically, but if the semantics differ too much, then it is difficult to understand the relation, and even more difficult to follow that logic to the point of agreeance.

This does help to deduce the answer, but I feel that the answer is quite obvious. It's a matter of opinion, based on the audience in which it is meant for. If you want all native English speakers to believe it is proper and correct, then you have your work cut out for you, but if you're just looking for a majority's acceptance, then stick to saying "I hate the color red".

The point is to understand what makes a complete sentence, and thereby you are able to deduce the acceptable answer here. A complete noun and verb make a complete sentence, and this is generally the most acceptable way to convey proper, acceptable English.

"I hate red color." - Granted, a native English speaker would most likely say that the words "red" and "color" are switched around, but that does not mean it is grammatically incorrect, although it would be missing an article if that was the case, hence making it, in fact, grammatically incorrect. To be precise, it isn't standard (there is a difference between what is standard and what is grammatically correct), and because it isn't standard, nearly all native English speakers would correct you by saying it is switched around.

To further my point - It is proper to say, "I hate the color red" rather than "I hate red color", specifically, because of the order of the nouns. In the version I presented, "the color red", "color" is a noun used as an adjective describing the noun "red". If you say, "I hate the red color", you are still using a noun as adjective "red" to describe the noun "color". Either way, depending on the context it is used in, you can also be stating a compound noun, because the latter noun "color" or "red" isn't necessary in that case, but this sentence on its own does not convey a complete thought, because it is implied that you are meaning the color of something that isn't stated in that sentence. In other words, if you say, "I hate the red [color]", it is obvious that there is more to this thought that isn't stated.

As Casey LeClair said when saying "I hate the color red", you aren't specifying its medium or location in relation to a shade of red. Therefore, it would be accepted as hating only red generally. But as JohnGH said, it calls for an article in this case, because the subject is singular, while depending on the plural, it is not always necessary to add an article. This is the generally accepted rule.

I agree that when saying "red color", red is an adjective, but can be a noun in a compound noun of "red color", because as said by moonring and J.R., it depends on the context, and there are exceptions to rules.

The basis of the answer here is that it depends. It depends on the person perceiving the statement. Honestly, you might never know which to use, so use your better judgment and sound it out both ways. Native or non-native, either way can go. This doesn't mean always, but don't take it for granted. Grammar nazis are everywhere.

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    Out of curiosity, which dialect would find "I hate red color." as an acceptable expression? When someone is learning a new language, I think it is much easier to start with the widely accepted rules and worry about regional differences, informal language, slang, et. al. after some level of mastery has been acquired or if the learner's question is specifically about something that doesn't fit with the rules as they understand them. What is acceptable grammar in various dialects is an interesting discussion, but it might be better on the EL&U site than here. – ColleenV Nov 20 '14 at 17:55
  • I agree with you that it isn't 100% appropriate here, but that is why I also expressed the most widely accepted answer. I am a native English speaker, but out of the many non-native English speakers I have met (Mexican, Korean, Indian, Chinese, Malaysian, etc), almost all of them expressed the same statements in their own individual way, so that is why it is relevant. Make you own choices, but be aware of the environmental factors, like the people and cultural/regional differences. – Andrew Licharowicz Nov 21 '14 at 18:42
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    Having lived in many regions of the US and abroad, my opinion is that standard English is best if you have a choice. Many of the folks in the NE part of the US associate a Southern dialect with ignorance. Why would a learner choose to express themselves in a way that might bias a listener against them? Yes, it's not a good thing to be biased against people because of the dialect they speak, but in reality many people do. Why would we encourage learners to ignore standard English in favor of adopting a dialect that may make it more difficult to be understood? – ColleenV Nov 21 '14 at 19:10
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    After looking over your answer again, I want to add that it doesn't really help learners to say "whether it is correct depends on the person perceiving the statement". The vast majority of native English speakers will perceive "I hate red color" as ungrammatical even if they can't express the exact rule. Even if the listener was OK with "red color", replacing it with "red colors" or "the color red" would probably not be misunderstood or perceived badly even if it isn't exactly the way the listener would say it themselves. – ColleenV Nov 21 '14 at 19:38

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