I came across the sentence «Какого цвета платье?» today. I would've assumed that «Какого цвета» would be in the nominative case and was confused to see this construction. Is there a grammatical rule/logic behind this, or is it just another case of "they just say it this way, so learn it".

  • Cases and the very they are governed by are supposed to be memorised in any language. Cases in foreign language seem plausible to someone only if in their native language one can find parallels.
    – shabunc
    Aug 26, 2020 at 20:20

3 Answers 3


Nominative doesn't work for the same reason it doesn't work in this English statement:

  • *The dress is red colour.

But we can make it work using 'of':

  • The dress is of red colour.

I don't know why English loses the 'of' when the statement is converted into a question:

  • What colour is this dress?

Other languages keep it:

  • De quelle couleur est cette robe?
  • Di che colore è questo vestito?

So it's English that's the odd one out. Russian is logical. :)

  • Spanish, being also a Romance language, follows exactly the same pattern, but yet another Romance language, Romanian, does drop the “de” in the question. Aug 27, 2020 at 20:36
  • @RomanOdaisky - In Romanian “ce culoare?” (what color?) is in the Nominative-Accusative case because the verb “to have” is used while talking about colors, “to have a color” rather than “to be of a color”: “Ce culoare are rochia?” (What color has the.dress?) The same in German: “Welche Farbe hat das Kleid?” – here “welche Farbe” is the Accusative case.
    – Yellow Sky
    Aug 27, 2020 at 22:31
  • @YellowSky Ce culoare este is also a thing in Romanian, which does not mirror the declarative a fi de culoare X. Aug 28, 2020 at 17:38
  • @RomanOdaisky - De ce culoare este X? is also a thing in Romanian, which does mirror the declarative a fi de culoare X: Google search results.
    – Yellow Sky
    Aug 29, 2020 at 4:01
  • @YellowSky Interesting Aug 29, 2020 at 16:21

In Russian, the question about the color of the dress has at least 3 possible answers:

(1) Платье красное. ~ Красное платье.  
(2) Платье красного цвета. ~ Красного цвета платье.
(3) Цвет платья – красный. ~ Красный цвет платья.

Now let us see how we construct a question to get an answer of type (1), and how we do it for types (2) and (3).

In (1) красное is a Nominative case singular neuter gender qualitative adjective, so in our question we will need the question word какой? in the same form (Nom. sg. n.) — какое?

Какое платье?
Красное платье.

However, какой? can stand for any kind of a qualitative adjective, not only for a color, but also for size, length, age, price, etc., which means that instead of an answer about the color of the dress we can well get answers about its other qualities, e. g. Длинное платье. Новое платье. Красивое платье. Дорогое платье.

To make sure the answer will be exactly about the color of the dress, we must use the word цвет “color” in the question, which means type (2) answer will be expected. In (2), красный цвет “red color” is an attribute of платье, that is why the noun phrase красного цвета is in the Genitive case, in the case of an attribute. To make a question, красного is substituted for какой?, but this time in Gen. sg. n. — какого? (of what color [is] dress?):

Какого цвета платье?
Красного цвета платье.

Красное платье ~ Платье красное (adjective in the Nom. case) can also be an answer to that question.

When we need an answer of type (3), a questions about color can be asked with какой цвет?, Nominative. This time цвет is the head of the noun phrase and платье is its attribute in Genitive (what [is] color of dress?):

Какой цвет платья?
Красный цвет платья.

Irrespective of which of the types you choose, you cannot have both какой цвет? and платье in the Nominative case, one of them has got to be put in Genitive.


Sergey Slepov's answer is correct (though I'm not agree with languages weird-shaming).

Note also that Russian doesn't use the verb have too much.

So this construction is less usual for Russian:

The dress has this color. ACC

While this one is more usual:

The dress is of this color. GEN

And that's why the question is also in GEN.

  • English has no cases, no NOM, no GEN, none at all.
    – Yellow Sky
    Aug 28, 2020 at 7:30
  • I would say English has no declentions (except for pronouns and possessive). But the words still have their roles it text. Aug 28, 2020 at 7:39
  • If you mean roles, why do you use the names of cases for that? In “The dress has this color” the role of “this color” is direct object, why did you choose “NOM” as a label for this role? Direct objects and “NOM” have nothing in common.
    – Yellow Sky
    Aug 28, 2020 at 8:26
  • You are right, changed to ACC. Aug 28, 2020 at 10:07

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