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I recently learned 青色をしている as a synonym for 青い, but I don't have a good idea of what the difference is, or even if there's any difference at all.

On chat, Flaw suggested the difference might be intrinsic quality (〜をしている) versus incidental quality (青い), but I don't have a good idea of what that means. I found a forum thread suggesting something similar, but I came away from that a bit confused--one poster claimed it was intrinsic versus extrinsic but didn't explain what that meant, and another said there is no difference in most cases.

So my question is: what is the difference between 青い and 青色をしている?

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Yes, it is different. –  oldergod Mar 1 '13 at 5:02
    
青い is an adjective –  Birkan Aras Mar 1 '13 at 16:48
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One difference I've noticed so far... when you want to use some phrases such as 澄んだ, 深い, 透き通るような to modify the color (as in 澄んだ青, 深い青, 透き通るような青), we would normally say 澄んだ青色をしている, 深い青色をしている, 透き通るような青色をしている... or maybe 澄んだ青(色)だ/深い青(色)だ/透き通るような青(色)だ? Probably it's not easy to say it using the adjective 青い; I think 澄んで青い/深く青い/透き通るように青い sound awkward. –  Choko Mar 7 '13 at 21:43
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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Besides the previous answers about the grammatical difference being adjective or not, I think they are slightly different in some meaning. While both refers to blue color, 青い is simply describing what it looks like, 青色をしている is more focusing of the color itself.

For example,

  • あの自転車は青い = the bike is blue. (where the information of bike and blue are equally important to me)
  • あの自転車は青色をしている = the bike is in the color of blue/that bike has a blue color to it. (where the color is what I want to bring your attension to)
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But is this not just the difference of using an adjective vs. using a noun? It seems that 青い and 青色をしてる are no more different than "blue" and "of a blue colour". –  Earthliŋ Mar 7 '13 at 6:53
    
青い and 青色をしてる are no more different than "blue" and "of a blue colour" - I agree, and what I meant above is that 青色をしている being extra verbose for the status of color. The discussion around 緑 or 青 is another topic, and you are right that there's no such みどりい. –  Ryo Mar 7 '13 at 7:11
    
Then maybe add "just like in English" somewhere to make it clear that you're not talking about a difference that only exists in Japanese. –  Earthliŋ Mar 7 '13 at 7:36
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