"be colored in"


A: What comes into your mind when thinking about your hometown?


B: The roofs of all the houses were colored in blue.


I have seen the sentence in a textbook and I was wondering if colored here is an adjective or just a passive voice? And the sentence is natural to you? I have never heard that "colored" can be used as a predicative adjective like this. And "be colored in" phrase is okay to use? 


What do you experts think? Thank you so much as usual and have a good day.

asked Jan 23 '13 at 14:28 Hans Contributor

2 answers


Hi again,


I agree with you that were colored in blue is an unnatural way to say it.  It would be much natural to say the houses were painted blue or the houses had blue-painted walls. Be colored definitely sounds unusual to me.


But continuing on with your query about the text you have provided, were colored in blue is in the passive voice.  Distinguishing between an adjective and a passive verb can certainly be difficult, and here are four basic 'tests' with which you can evaluate a sentence/phrase to distinguish between them (I found this on http://www.annies-annex.com/participles_as_adjectives.htm and substantially revised it, not only because there were some unfortunate grammar and other mistakes in their examples, but because they didn't enumerate other contexts which, by their own logic, would also apply).  In any event, the implication is that if more of these "tests" fail than pass, the word is a passive past or present participle, but if more of them pass than fail, it is an adjective -- this standard is fascinating, and completely new to me, but it definitely seems loosey-goosey; I am eager to hear other experts' opinions:


The word is an adjective if:    


1.  It can be used before the noun it modifies.  an encouraging word, a shocking secret, a worried mother


2.  It can be used in the predicate, especially after the verb seem or other non-action/state verbs, not including be . Aunt Tilly seemed annoyed.  She seems bored. The party sounds exciting.  She felt bored.


3.  It can be used in the comparative or superlative form.  They were more frightened than we were.  Ted's final grades were the most pleasing.


4.  It can be modified by veryJackie was very relaxed after her vacation.   The audience was very pleased with the concert.


By all of these criteria, colored in your text fails as an adjective:


1.  A colored house sounds wrong

2. The house seemed colored is definitely wrong

3.  Mr. Brown's house was more colored than Mr. Smith's house is also definitely wrong.

4.  The house was very colored, again, sounds completely wrong.


So I think it is safe to say that in your text colored is, in fact, a passive past participle verb.


However, it is not a simple matter.  When I consider the long-politically-incorrect term to refer to Americans who were not 100% white, colored, that meaning of the word would probably pass at least 3 of the 4 tests, possibly outright failing #4 only.  So the excellent question you have posed is not an easy one to definitively resolve.  Still, I think the criteria I found online is useful for beginning to distinguish between adjectives on the one hand, and passive past or present participles on the other.


My answer is definitely preliminary, and I look forward to the input of others....



link edited Jan 23 '13 at 17:17 Shawn Mooney Expert

"Thank you so much" is not enough to express my gratitude for your help!! Thank you a million:-)

HansJan 24 '13 at 01:39

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"The houses were painted blue" was the first thing that came to my mind.

link comment answered Jan 24 '13 at 00:53 SrSwagOfficial New member

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