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The Grammar of Chinese Color: When to Use 藍色的 or 藍色

Color Grammar

Just like in English, there are ways of saying things in Chinese that are basically the same, with very subtle differences in connotation. For instance, in my new children’s story, 藍色魚 (translated The Blue Fish), the use of the description of “blue” for the fish varies slightly along the way . The book, written with the oversight and editing of my Chinese tutor, is available for kindle (use link above). The print-on-demand version is now available through Amazon, but the site could not accept the Chinese characters in the title, so its listing can be found by searching for The Blue Fish in Chinese. Below is an explanation at the end of the book:

blue, the color of 藍色 (lan2 se4)

blue colored 藍色的 (lan2 se4 de.)


Here are some sentences to help explain:




[(zhe4)(tiao1)](yu2)(shi4)[(lan2 se4)(de.)]

[(this)(measure word for fish)] (fish) (is, to be) [(blue)(adjective marker)]

This fish is blue colored.




(lan2 se4 de.) (yu2) (bi3 jiao4) (xiao3)

(blue colored) (fish) (comparatively) (small)

(The) blue colored fish is comparatively small.




(wo3)(xiang3 yao4)(yi1 tiao1) (lan2 se4 de.) (yu2)

(I) (think to want) (a, one) (blue colored) (fish)

I want a fish that is blue colored. 




(lan2 se4)(yu2)(xi3 huan1)(you2 yong3)

(blue) (fish) (to like) (to swim)

The blue fish likes to swim.(indicating a particular fish known as “the blue fish.” This gives it more of name-like identification, for an individual fish being referred to.)


At the beginning of the story, the color quality of the fish is being described, so 藍色的魚 (lan2 se4 de.)(yu2) is used more. By the end of the story, this particular fish is being called the blue fish, more as a title, so it has changed to 藍色魚 (lan2 se4)(yu2).