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It looks like this sentence can be formed without the "De" so what is it for?

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The De is mandatory in the question –  Emilio Gort Feb 2 at 2:39
1  
@EmilioGort But why? –  0x499602D2 Feb 2 at 2:44

6 Answers 6

up vote 9 down vote accepted

In Spanish the complete answer is:

La camisa es de color azul.

You can not make it a word by word translation into English. This is simply how it is in Spanish: when you're talking about the color property of a thing it is always constructed as "<thing> is of <such> colour".

Of course the answer is usually (but not always) shortened as:

La camisa es azul.

which relates better to the English way "<thing> is <colour name>".

Knowing which the complete answer is, now we can figure out how the correct question is, which turns to be:

¿De qué color es la camisa?

"Which colour is <thing> of?"

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You broke it down very well. +1 and accepted. –  0x499602D2 Feb 2 at 23:32

Bueno, pues no comento porque necesito más reputación, así que lo pongo como "respuesta". Esa pregunta se puede responder de dos maneras:

¿De qué color es la camisa? - Es azul.

¿De qué color es la camisa? - Es de color azul.

La primera respuesta es sólo una manera abreviada de decir la segunda.


Well, as I can't comment because I need more reputation, I will put it as a "reply". That question can be answered in two ways:

¿De qué color es la camisa? - Es azul.

¿De qué color es la camisa? - Es de color azul.

The first answer is only an abbreviated way to say the second.

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Can you translate this to English please? –  0x499602D2 Feb 2 at 3:14
    
It won't be a word for word translation, so it would be pointless. –  Jose Feb 2 at 3:54
    
But I don't know what your answer is saying... –  0x499602D2 Feb 2 at 4:48

If you really don't want the initial "de", I guess you might say:

¿ Qué color es el color de la camisa ?

However, that would mean you see the color but can't name it.

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A translation of the previous answer:

"Bueno, pues no comento porque necesito más reputación, así que lo pongo como "respuesta". Esa pregunta se puede responder de dos maneras:

¿De qué color es la camisa? - Es azul.

¿De qué color es la camisa? - Es de color azul.

La primera respuesta es sólo una manera abreviada de decir la segunda."

Broadly... "Well, as I can't comment because I need more reputation, I will put it as a "reply". [the same goes for me!] That question can be answered in two ways:

¿De qué color es la camisa? - Es azul.

¿De qué color es la camisa? - Es de color azul.

The first answer is only an abbreviated way to say the second."

My way of understanding is that "de" is used in the question because the answer is selected from a list (the list of colours) - "Of what colour is the shirt"

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"¿De qué color es la camisa?" literally translates into: "OF what color is the shirt?" That just happens to the Spanish construction. We don't need the "of" in English, but we do in Spanish.

"¿De qué color es la camisa?" se traduce literalmente en: "OF what color is the shirt?" Ese es la construccion española. No necessitamos "of" en ingles, pero lo necesitamos en español.

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Some of the other answers provide solid practical information, but I'm going to get into some of the nitty gritty of it :)

When you say La camisa es azul, you have three parts: subject, copula verb, and predicate adjective. Here's it and some others broken down:

  • El librosuj. parecev.cop. interesantep.adj..
  • La sopasuj. estáv.cop. fríap.adj..
  • La camisasuj. esv.cop. azulp.adj..

Now, here's where it gets interesting (actually, probably more so in English). What questions would you ask to get the answers of interesante, fría, and azul? Being adjectives, you cannot use qué (which replaces nouns). Your question word must be cómo:

  • ¿Cómo parece el libro? Parece interesante.
  • ¿Cómo está la sopa? Está fría.
  • ¿Cómo es la camisa? Es azul.

If we want to limit our answer field a bit, we can add in de + categoría (which can be placed really anywhere in the question)

  • ¿Cómo parece el libro de calidad?
  • ¿Cómo está la sopa de temperatura?
  • ¿Cómo es la camisa de color?

Another way to ask these questions, since the answer will inevitably be a type of these categories is to use this de qué + categoría structure:

  • ¿De qué calidad parece el libro? Parece de (una) calidad interesante
  • ¿De qué temperatura está la sopa? Está de (una) temperatura fría.
  • ¿De qué color es la camisa? Es de (un) color azul.

When you use ser with predicative nominatives (nouns) instead of adjectives, you basically say that the subject is a type of the predicate (or reverse, or literally equals), rather than carries the attribute of the predicate. La sopa es una comida, El libro es un texto escrito, La camisa es una prenda.

This is hard to see with La camisa es azul because azul is technically ambiguous, but always interpreted as adjectival. Let's force the noun interpretation: La camisa es el azul. Whoa, that sounds weird. We can say El azul es un color or Un/el color es el azul, likewise we can say Una/la camisa es una prenda or Una/la prenda es una/la camisa. But with ser, we can't mix and match because they aren't of the same conceptual category.

When you ask ¿Qué color es la camisa?, qué substitutes for a noun, which means the only interpretation is this weird La camisa es el azul thing that makes no sense. You can only ask ¿Qué color es ...? if what replaces the … is something identifiable as a color (such as ¿Qué color es esto? and I'm pointing at a solid bit of color somewhere).

A better question might be why English doesn't let you say *What temperature is the soup?* but does let you ask *What color is the shirt?*

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Great answer. Never thought of it like that. And I'm sure English does let you say "What temperature is the soup". –  0x499602D2 Oct 4 at 3:28
    
@0x499602D2 it sounds weird to me (I'm a native), I would say "What's the temperature of the soup?" or "What temperature is the soup at?", but that may just be me. Consider, perhaps, "What height is the boy?" –  guifa Oct 4 at 3:38
    
Okay. Those comparisons made it clear. :) –  0x499602D2 Oct 4 at 3:42

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