Is there any explanation for using indefinite article before color or is it wrong? I've encountered several sentences:

  1. The general colour of the wild-cat is a brindled grey, with black stripes.
  2. His hair is a light blue.
  3. The new plaster is light blue.
  • 2
    Suggested reading answer: "I hate red color" or "I hate red". Apr 13, 2016 at 9:29
  • The only indefinite article noticed by me in "I hate red color" thread is for "a red color", where "a" is related to "color" word which is "singular noun". But in case of "light blue" I can't identify the "singular noun". Apr 13, 2016 at 13:01
  • That's why I posted it as a suggested reading answer. There are many interesting answers and comments in that question. Note that any color can be an adjective or a noun, and when it's a noun, it can be used countably or uncountably, depending on context. It would be strange if, say, an artist told you that blue is always uncountable when he used lots of blues in his painting. Apr 13, 2016 at 13:29
  • 1
    You can use any determiner before a color. Jo has his favorite blue and I have mine. That grey is better than a green. That is the darkest dark brown I've ever seen. The whale was this orangey brown yellowish pink. Apr 13, 2016 at 14:12
  • 1
    There are many many “light blues” and the indefinite article indicates this is just one of them: “a light blue”. When we restrict it to just “light blue” we are being less discriminatory and lumping all the light blues together under the name “light blue”. The more descriptive you try to be, the more necessary/idiomatic the indefinite article seems to becomes: “a very light purplish blue”. Feb 13, 2020 at 1:34

1 Answer 1


These examples are all valid; adjectives and articles can be used to modify colors.

The usage is somewhat confusing, as we normally think of colors as adjectives, not nouns. However, they can be used as either. For example, in this sentence:

The car was blue

"blue" is an adjective modifying car. Here, on the other hand:

Red is my favorite color.

"red" is a noun and the subject of the sentence. Usually the context makes it clear which use is intended. As you noticed, however, there's a somewhat confusing usage where the noun form is used to describe the color of some other object:

His cloak was a dark blue.

As you pointed out, the article "a" should only be used to introduce a noun phrase. As such, we know that "blue" is here being used as a noun. This makes the sentence grammatically correct but nonsensical, as a cloak and a wavelength of light are obviously not the same. This construct does not follow common grammar rules, but is itself fairly common, especially in prose or dramatic writing. The best way to interpret it is to simply insert "the color of" before the described object:

(The color of) his cloak was a dark blue.

This form of the sentence is rather wordy and awkward, but carries the actual meaning intended by the original sentence. When using the indeterminate article "a", it's hard to justify the construct from anything except an aesthetic standpoint. As you can see in Alan Carmack's comment, though, there are circumstances where using similar constructs with a color and a qualifier can deliver useful information.

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