In the following sentence over Doulingo French course:

Les couleurs du drapeau américain sont rouge, blanc et bleu.

The subject of this sentence is les couleurs, which is a feminine plural noun.

However, it takes rouge, blanc, et bleu on the predicate, which is a masculine single.

Why does it take the masculine single and not the feminine plural form? So far, all the sentences I read use the same gender/number pair as its subject...

2 Answers 2


Because rouge, blanc et bleu sont les couleurs du drapeau américain...

There is just one red, one white and one blue and they are substantives here.

Les couleurs sont au nombre de trois, le rouge, le blanc et le bleu. (three masculine nouns)

There is agreement when bleu or blanc are adjectives :

La couleur bleue du drapeau américain semble un peu plus foncée que celle du drapeau français.

La couleur blanche de cette maison est typique de la région.

but not when they are themselves qualified by another adjective or a noun:

La couleur bleu nuit de la tapisserie.

La couleur blanc cassé de cette robe.

  • Thanks. What does "La couleur bleu nuit de la tapisserie." mean?
    – Blaszard
    Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 1:11
  • That's not a full sentence and means the wallpaper night blue color
    – jlliagre
    Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 1:24
  • 1
    Or rather, “the night blue color of the wallpaper”. Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 10:28
  • @StéphaneGimenez Yes, that's better. I initially wanted to write The wallpaper's night blue color but refrained from doing it.
    – jlliagre
    Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 12:20

The point to understand is that here you are not dealing with the colour adjectives but with the nouns of the colours, and that the indefinite article that is usually necessary (le rouge, le blanc, le bleu), is missing ; common nouns in French take the definite article and are not zero article nouns (as in English (red, white, blue)) ; it remains to know why they are missing.

The reason is that an enumeration is being made and it is often possible, as in English, to dispense with the articles in enumerations. Examples such as the following abound.

  • La rame passa par dessus bord et il n'y pu rien.
  • Rame et rameur passèrent par dessus bord et bientôt ne flottait plus que la rame.
  • Dans un couvert normal il faut mettre fourchette, couteau et verre près de l'assiette.

Note that you could also write the sentence as follows ; - Les couleurs du drapeau américain sont le rouge, le blanc et le bleu.
This could be deemed a preferable style (see @ Stéphane Gimenez 's comment).

  • I would actually expect articles despite the enumeration in this case (precisely to avoid any ambiguity wrt nouns and adjectives). I doubt the sentence was written by a native French speaker in the first place. Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 10:36
  • @StéphaneGimenez Of course, there is only the word "blanc" to give a clue (spoken sentence) and the first word (rouge) has naturally given the clue to an adjectival suite; it does result in a somewhat uneasy deciphering. Let's say that it is acceptable but that the use of the articles makes for a better style.
    – LPH
    Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 11:44

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