Abstract and Concrete Nouns

Based on what we can or cannot perceive with our five senses, we can categorize nouns into two groups: abstract and common nouns. Start learning!

"Abstract and Concrete" Nouns in English Grammar

What Are Concrete and Abstract Nouns?

Concrete nouns refer to tangible objects that can be perceived through the senses, such as touch, taste, smell, sight, or hearing. Abstract nouns, on the other hand, refer to intangible concepts, ideas, or qualities that cannot be perceived through the senses or touched in the physical world.

For example, an ice cream, a pen, a car are all 'concrete nouns' while love, hate, and anger are 'abstract nouns.'

Concrete Nouns

A concrete noun refers to a physical object that can be perceived through one or more of the five senses - taste, touch, smell, sight, or hearing. Let's see some examples:

We trimmed the trees.

I heard his voice but I did not pay attention.

How to Recognize Concrete Nouns in a Sentence

When encountering a noun in a sentence, you can determine if it is a concrete noun by considering whether it can be perceived through one or more of the five senses - touch, taste, smell, sight, or hearing. If the noun can be perceived in this way, it is likely a concrete noun.

I ate pasta in an expensive restaurant.

In this sentence you can taste the 'pasta' and see the 'restaurant' so, they are both concrete nouns.

I listened to the music you recommended.

In this sentence, you can hear the sound of the music, as a result, music is a concrete noun.

His religion is Jainism, I guess.

In this sentence 'religion' and 'Jainism' are both abstract nouns because you cannot feel them by your five senses.

Here is a list of concrete nouns based on the sense they are perceived with.

  • Things we can see: a flower, a book, the sun, our house
  • Things we can touch: a hand, a fork, a car
  • Things we can hear: a voice, a honk, a siren, a note (like D flat)
  • Things we can smell: perfume, odor, gas
  • Things we can taste: food, bread, sugar, honey

Common and Proper Concrete Nouns

Concrete nouns can be classified as either proper or common, depending on whether they refer to a specific or general entity. While most concrete nouns are common nouns, some can also be proper nouns. A proper concrete noun refers to a specific entity that can be perceived through the senses, and is written with an initial capital letter. For example, "Eiffel Tower" is a proper concrete noun. On the other hand, a common concrete noun refers to a general entity that can be perceived through the senses, and is not capitalized in writing. For instance, "building" is a common concrete noun.

Check out these examples:

Jake is a kind boy.

In this example 'Jake' refers to the name of a person, so, it is referring to a concept that can be touched and seen. As a result, it is a proper concrete noun. However, the term 'boy' is a common concrete noun because it has a generic meaning.

La Grillo Parlante is a useful Italian book to learn the grammar.

In this example, La Grillo Parlante → proper concrete noun; book → common concrete noun

Deciding Whether a Noun Is Concrete or Not

Some words can be perceived through the five senses in certain contexts and represent concrete objects, while in other contexts they may represent abstract concepts. Here are the examples:

His works are amazing, especially the classic ones. → concrete noun

Here in this example, the speaker is referring to a piece of art which can be seen.

Finishing this project requires hard work. → not a concrete noun

In this example, the speaker is referring to the effort needed to finish the project.

Some English words have multiple definitions, which can result in one definition being concrete while another is abstract or non-concrete. Check out the example:

Global warming is not going to be beneficial for the atmosphere. → a concrete noun

In this example, the atmosphere is made of different gases, so it is concrete.

I went to the party and they were really friendly, it was a welcoming atmosphere. → an abstract noun

Here, atmosphere is not a physical entity, but a state.

examples of abstract and concrete nouns

Abstract Nouns

Abstract nouns, such as ideas, concepts, feelings, and qualities, cannot be perceived through our five senses. The following list represents different categories of abstract nouns:

  • Feelings and emotions: sadness, happiness, depression, envy, fear
  • States: death, married, womanhood
  • Qualities: beauty, generosity, honesty, trust
  • Concepts: religion, motivation, opportunity
  • Ideas: wisdom, friendship, knowledge
  • Events: birthday, holiday, Christmas, days of the week

How to Recognize Abstract Nouns

When encountering a noun, we can determine whether it is abstract or concrete by considering whether it can be perceived through the senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste, or smell. If the answer to this question is 'no,' the noun is likely an abstract noun.

Holidays are my favorite parts of the year.

You cannot sense the 'holidays,' so it is an abstract noun.

Mandarin is really hard to learn.

Different Categories of Abstract Nouns

Abstract nouns can be classified into two groups based on whether they can be quantified.

If an abstract noun can be counted, it is a countable abstract noun. If it cannot be counted, it is an uncountable abstract noun. However, it is important to note that most abstract nouns are uncountable.

Your dreams are based on what happens to you during the day. → countable abstract noun

Studying and learning are important ways to gain new knowledge. → uncountable abstract noun

Abstract nouns can be classified into two groups based on whether they refer to general or specific concepts.

Abstract nouns that refer to general ideas are called common abstract nouns, while those that refer to specific concepts are called proper abstract nouns and are capitalized. However, it is important to note that most abstract nouns are common nouns.

Her unbelievable beauty fascinated everyone. → common abstract noun

We donated all the money from the event to charity. → common abstract noun

See you on Wednesday. → proper abstract noun

How to Make Abstract Nouns?

In many cases, concrete nouns, adjectives, or verbs can be transformed into abstract nouns by adding a suffix or modifying the root of the word. Some of these suffixes are presented in the following:

  • -ness: happiness, sadness
  • -hood: childhood, neighborhood
  • -tion: depression, intention
  • -ship: relationship, friendship
  • -ability: likability, capability
  • -acy: adequacy, bureaucracy
  • -ance: defiance, intolerance
  • -ment: ailment, argument
  • -ness: fitness, fondness
  • -ence: deference; violence

Abstract or Concrete?

Determining whether a noun is abstract or concrete can be challenging in some cases. For instance, words like 'job' and 'laughter' can be ambiguous. Some argue that 'job' is an abstract noun because it cannot be seen directly, while others consider it concrete because a person can be seen working at a job. Similarly, 'laughter' is sometimes regarded as abstract, but it can also be heard, which suggests that it may be a concrete noun."

Review

Based on what we can or cannot perceive through our five senses, we can categorize nouns into two groups

  1. Abstract nouns
  2. Concrete nouns
Concrete nouns Abstract nouns
a concrete noun is a noun that we can perceive through our five senses. an abstract noun a noun we cannot perceive through our five senses.
ness hood tion ship ability
Making abstract nouns out of concrete ones happiness, sadness childhood, neighborhood depression, intention relationship, friendship likability, capability

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