a tan complexion or a tanned complexion

englishhobby

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I have googled it and found a more or less equal number of results for "a tan complexion" and "a tanned complexion". Do both variants work?
 

Rover_KE

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Yes, they do.

I'd say 'a tan complexion' is more prevalent in AE. Click here, then change the corpus to British English. (Bookmark the site for future reference.)
 

emsr2d2

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And note that you'll also see the spelling "complection" in BrE.
 

Raymott

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I don't think they mean the same thing. Many people have a naturally tan complexion. Tan is a colour. A tanned complexion is one which has been darkened by the sun, or artificially.
At least, 'tan' is not commonly used in AusE for tanned.
 

bhaisahab

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I've never heard of a 'tan complection/complexion'. I have a pair of tan shoes, I have a black and tan dog. I have a tanned complexion.
 

Raymott

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To be honest, I haven't heard of a tan complexion either, but it makes sense. The only problem I have with it is that tanned skin of any original colour is rarely tan, as I generally understand it.

https://www.google.com.au/search?q=...-nqTVAhUCV7wKHd_bAIUQ_AUIBigB&biw=911&bih=425

images


https://www.google.com.au/search?q=tan&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiinv7-nqTVAhUCV7wKHd_bAIUQ_AUIBigB&biw=911&bih=425#tbm=isch&q=tan+colour
 

Skrej

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From this AmE viewpoint, I'm okay with either version. However, I'd still interpret either one to mean that his skin was darkened by the sun, as opposed to a particular skin hue. I wouldn't have much indication of what color his original skin tone was without some prior knowledge or assumptions based on race or ethnicity.

People of any skin color can tan (darken). It's just more noticeable the lighter the original base color.

Edit: Sometimes you'll hear (at least in AmE) 'bronzed' to indicate a deep level of tanning (darkening).
 

andrewg927

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I agree with Skrej. If I use the word "tan", it only means "darkened by the sun". Also he is right to point out that anyone can be tanned. If I want to say someone with a darker skin tone, I would use either "brown", "dark skin" or their ethnicity. Another word you might hear is "orange skin". Our American president is an example of that.
 

Tdol

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As another BrE speaker, tan complexion does not work for me. Maybe we're very pale and only notice a tanned complexion. Tan shoes are not that light.
 

Raymott

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Sure, the verb is "to tan", and you get a tan, but the result isn't "a tan complexion" apparently in BrE and AusE.

PS: I notice that when I say "tanned complexion" it comes as "tan complexion" anyway, unless I speak carefully.
 
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englishhobby

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I see tanned complexion isn't a contentious issue, so I'd better use it in my vocabulary exercise to be on the safe side. :)
 
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