Italian Language/use of "giallo oro"

Advertisement


Question
Dear Maria,

Would you please help me to better understand the use of the  expression: “giallo oro”.

Would you please explain why and/or when one should express the noun gold as  “giallo oro” instead of using “oro” ,  and why or when one should express gold as the invariable adjective and say “giallo oro” instead of saying -   “dorato”.

For example, I understand that it is acceptable to say:

Il suo colore preferito č il giallo oro.
His favorite color is gold.

Le piace il giallo oro.
She likes gold.

La casa č dipinta di giallo oro.
The house is painted gold.

But, I don’t understand why one should use “giallo oro” in the above sentences instead of saying:

Il suo colore preferito č oro.
His favorite color is gold.

Le piace il oro.
She likes gold.

La casa č dipinta di oro.
The house is painted gold.


Would you also please tell me if “giallo oro” is used to refer to both gold as a color and as a metal.

Thank you very, very much.

Sincerely,

Rich

Answer
Dear Rich,

the  expression “giallo oro” refers only to the colour which is similar to that of this metal, as in e.g. “Il suo colore preferito č il giallo oro”(His favorite color is gold), “Le piace il giallo oro” (She likes gold), “La casa č dipinta di giallo oro” (The house is painted gold).

Therefore we use  “giallo oro” instead of “oro” only when we want to indicate that yellow looks like the colour of gold as a metal.

Similarly, we say  “giallo limone” (lemon yellow), “giallo  ocra” (yellow ochre), “giallo paglierino” (straw yellow), if yellow is a colour like that of a lemon or  ochre or straw.

As for  the variable adjective  “dorato”, it can be used when it means "covered with a thin layer of gold or a substance that looks like gold" as in e.g. “Questa statua non č d’oro, č semplicemente dorata” ("This statue is not solid gold, it's just gilt") or “Cornice dorata” meaning “ gilt frame”, so that it is not acceptable to say “una statua dorata”, if you want to say that such a  statue is made of gold. In Italian in fact you must say “Una statua d’oro”, as I’ve already said.

That being stated, you  must use “giallo oro”, not simply “oro”, in  “Il suo colore preferito č il giallo oro”(His favorite color is gold), “Le piace il giallo oro” (She likes gold), “La casa č dipinta di giallo oro” (The house is painted gold).

If in fact we said “Le piace l’oro” and “La casa č dipinta di oro”, it  would mean that she likes gold as a metal and the house is covered with gold as a metal.

Anyway,the only sentence where you can use indifferently “giallo oro” and “oro” is “Il suo colore preferito č il giallo oro”, simply because it is obvious that we are talking about a colour and then we can say “Il suo colore preferito č l’oro”.


To conclude, “giallo oro” is used to refer to gold as a colour, not  as a metal.

Best regards,

Maria

Italian Language

All Answers


Answers by Expert:


Ask Experts

Volunteer


Maria

Expertise

Italian is my mother tongue and I'll be glad to answer any questions concerning Italian Language.

Experience

Over 25 years teaching experience.

Education/Credentials
I received my Ph.D.in Classics (summa cum laude) from Genova University (Italy).

This expert accepts donations:

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.