Invariable French Adjectives ~ Adjectifs invariables

French Colors May Be Invariable Adjectives

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In French, adjectives normally have to agree with the nouns they modify in gender and number. However, there are numerous adjectives which don't agree - they have a single form that does not change to reflect the gender or number of the noun. These are called invariable adjectives.

Invariable Color Adjectives

French color adjectives derived from nouns, such as animals, flowers, fruits, gems, and metals, are usually invariable:
   amarante     amaranthine (dark purple-red)
   ardoise     slate-grey
   argent     silver
   aubergine     eggplant
   auburn     auburn
   brique     brick-red
   canari     canary yellow
   caramel     caramel-colored
   carmin     carmine
   cerise     cherry red
   chair     flesh-colored
   champagne     champagne
   chocolat     chocolate-brown
   citron     lemon-yellow
   crème     cream-colored
   emeraude     emerald green
   grenat     garnet
   indigo     indigo
   kaki     khaki
   lavande     lavender
   lilas     lilac
   marine     navy blue
   marron     brown
   noisette     hazel
   ocre     ochre
   olive     olive-green
   or     gold
   orange     orange
   pastel     pastel
   pervenche     periwinkle
   pie     (magpie) - piebald, black and white
   pistache     pistachio-green
   platine     platinum
   prune     plum
   puce     (flea) - puce
   rouille     rust-colored
   rubis     ruby red
   sable     sandy, sand-colored
   safran     saffron-colored
   saphir     sapphire-blue
   saumon     salmon-pink
   tabac     tobacco brown
   turquoise     turquoise
   vermillon     vermilion

Exceptions:

  1.  alezan (chestnut), fauve (tawny/fawn), incarnat (rosy), mauve, pourpre (crimson), rose (pink), vermeil (vermillion),and violet are variable according to the normal rules of agreement
  2.  châtain (chestnut brown) is semi-invariable - it usually agrees in number, but rarely in gender

Multiple Colors

When two or more colors describe a noun, they may or may not agree:

1) If there are items of each individual color, the adjectives agree:

  •  des drapeaux bleus, blancs, rouges - red, white, and blue flags (some are red, some are white, and some are blue)
  • des chapeaux rouges et noirs - red and black hats (some are red and some are black)

2) If each item has all of the colors, the adjectives are invariable

  • des drapeaux bleu, blanc, rouge - red, white, and blue flags (e.g., French flags)
  • des chapeaux rouge et noir - red and black hats

This is one instance where agreement is useful, because it gives you more detail than what is available in the English translation.

Compound Colors

When adjectives of color are modified by another adjective or a noun, the adjectives are invariable:
   une jupe gris clair     light gray skirt
   des gants violet foncé     dark purple gloves
   une couleur rouge-orange     reddish-orange color
   des yeux bleu-vert     blue-green eyes
   une voiture vert pomme     apple-green car
   des fleurs rouge tomate     tomato-red flowers

Adjectives Borrowed From Other Languages

French adjectives borrowed from other languages are usually invariable:
   ad hoc     ad hoc
   a priori     a priori
   antitrust     anti-trust
   baby     baby
   beat     beatnik
   cantilever     cantilever
   charter     charter
   cheap     cheap (poor quality)
   clean     clean
   cool     cool
   curriculum vitae     curriculum vitae, résumé
   dance     related to dance music
   design     designer
   destroy     destroyed, trashed, wild
   express     related to espresso
   fahrenheit     Fahrenheit
   free-lance     freelance
   fun     fun
   funky     funk
   furax     furious
   glamour     glamorous
   gold     gold(en)
   gore     gory
   gratis     free
   groggy     groggy
   halal     halal (in accordance with shari'a principles)
   hi-fi     hi-fi
   high-tech     high-tech
   hot     hot (jazz)
   kascher     kosher (in accordance with Judaic principles)
   kitsch     kitsch
   indoor     indoor
   inuit     Inuit
   jazzy     jazz, related to jazz
   kif-kif     same, identical
   kitsch     kitsch
   lambda     averge, typical
   light     light, low in calories
   marengo     Marengo
   offset     offset
   offshore     offshore
   out     out of touch, (tennis) out
   people     celebrity
   pop     pop (music, art)
   pro forma     pro forma
   punk     punk
   record     record
   relax     relaxed, informal, laid back
   revolving     revolving
   select     select, high-class, posh
   sexy     sexy
   snob     snobby, snobbish
   solo     solo
   soul     soul (music)
   sport     casual, athletic (clothes, shoes)
   spot     (economics) spot
   standard     standard
   stand-by     stand-by
   sterling     (pound) sterling
   tango     bright orange
   top     great, best
   trash     trashy, base, tasteless
   vaudou     voodoo
   vidéo     video
   waterproof     waterproof
   zen     Zen