Spanish noob here - I just encountered this on Duolingo:

Felipe pinta su dormitorio azul.

Which translates to:

Felipe is painting his bedroom blue.

This is very confusing for me - I'm not familiar with linguistic terms so I don't even know what to search for! Basically, my problem is that I'm confused on how to say Felipe is painting his bedroom (the color) blue versus Felipe is painting his blue bedroom

That is, typically we would put the adjective after the noun, so "blue bedroom" is dormitorio azul. But in this situation we're not using azul as an adjective to describe the bedroom, but as a descriptor of what is being done with the bedroom.

So: (1) how would one say "Felipe is painting his blue bedroom", and (2) what are the rule(s) and/or context clues for knowing when an adjective is describing the noun versus the result of the action against the noun?

As an aside - if anyone can leave a comment letting me know the right linguistic terms are, I'd appreciate it. Can't search the web if you don't know the word you're searching for! :)

  • 3
    The sentence in Spanish sounds a bit weird to me, I would have said Felipe pinta su dormitorio de azul. It is understandable that he is painting his bedroom with the color blue, since people generally just have one room, but strictly speaking can be confusing.
    – fedorqui
    Commented Dec 17, 2019 at 14:48
  • Maybe a better example is the bathroom. Some houses have two of those. Quiero pintar el baño azul might be ambiguous, although I agree with @fedorqui that "Quiero pintar el baño de azul" is more typical when painting it blue. But to be clear I could say "Quiero pintar el baño de la planta baja." In other words, I could use some other distinguishing feature to get my idea across. // I'm not sure which aspects of this you would like terminology for -- could you clarify? (I did add a tag that focuses on workarounds for ambiguities.) // Interesting question, and welcome to the site! Commented Dec 17, 2019 at 19:41
  • @fedorqui - Since comments are ephemeral I think you should move your comment to an answer. Your simple distinction isn't in the existing answer. Commented Dec 17, 2019 at 19:46
  • @fedorqui yes, please add that as an answer.
    – cegfault
    Commented Dec 17, 2019 at 20:38
  • 1
    Sorry, I believe that's backwards. Okay, we've got two different colored bathrooms, and I want to paint the blue one: "Quiero pintar el baño azul." Now I'm standing in one of the bathrooms with my partner and the context shows which one I want to paint: "Quiero pintar el baño de azul" -- I want to change the color to blue (from whatever color it was). (Granted, the first sentence -- Quiero pintar el baño azul" is a little weird.) Commented Dec 17, 2019 at 20:43

1 Answer 1


Unlike the English language —where that distinction is possible via the ordering of the adjective—, in Spanish we do not have something so straight-forward to convey what is blue (the old bedroom or the same one after getting painted)

The way to say so without confusions would be

Felipe pinta su dormitorio, el de color azul
Felipe paints his blue bedroom


Felipe pinta de azul su dormitorio
Felipe paints his bedroom blue

Also if Felipe walks into a paint shop asking for advice, any Spanish speaking employee will know what he means if he says:

¿Qué marca de pintura me recomienda?
Quiero pintar de verde mi dormitorio azul  

I want to paint green my blue bedroom

  • 2
    That’s still confusing, to me the examples you give are reversed. Fedorqui’s comment is correct ‘pintar algo de azul’ = to paint something blue
    – Traveller
    Commented Dec 17, 2019 at 16:22
  • Thank you for pointing that, (got interrupted and lost the focus there)
    – ipp
    Commented Dec 17, 2019 at 16:26

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