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Why do you say "De quelle couleur est ta chemise" instead of "Quelle couleur est ta chemise"?

Must you always say "de"?

I have seen "Quelle couleur est ta chemise?" many times, but I think it is an incorrect direct translation from English.

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If you think about it, the English is pretty strange. "What colour is your shirt?" But your shirt isn't a colour; it has a colour! :)

In general, adjectival predicates can't be asked about using "quel" (what/which).

✓ La chemise est bleue.
✗ Quelle couleur est la chemise ? Bleu.

But you could ask about the colour as a property:

✓ Quelle est la couleur de la chemise ? Bleu.

And you can also use de, which in this case means "having / being characterized by":

✓ De quelle couleur est la chemise ?

The chemise has a colour, is of a certain colour. It could be compared to older, more poetic English expressions like "trees of green, skies of blue, clouds of white".

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  • 1
    You could also say "Quelle couleur a ta chemise?" Aug 25, 2023 at 6:32
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    @SimonMourier ça sonne moins bien mais oui c'est grammaticalement juste.
    – Hippo
    Aug 25, 2023 at 7:18
  • @Personne C'est de la torture, pure et simple... (anglicisme? :) )
    – Luke Sawczak
    Aug 26, 2023 at 17:06
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    « Attention, un train peut en cacher un autre » : quand on franchit une barrière, le is d'état devient le a d'avoir, ET l'accord de bleu avec couleur barre la route qui mène à l'Académie française.
    – Personne
    Aug 27, 2023 at 5:39

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