Concrete Versus Abstract Nouns

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What are they?

When you think of nouns, you probably think of people, places or objects. While these are all nouns, they are not the only type. While concrete nouns are something tangible, abstract nouns are intangible. People, places, animals and objects are all concrete nouns. Conversely, abstract nouns encompass actions, events, ideas, states of mind, qualities and conditions.

Concrete nouns

Concrete nouns are perceivable by the senses and name something you can see, hear, smell, taste or touch. These include people, animals, places and objects. Consider the following concrete nouns:

People: dentist, firefighter, man, Rita

Animals: barracuda, gorilla, puppy, tiger

Places: Empire State Building, island, mountain, Turkey

Objects: cake, fruit, keys, coffee cup

Consider the following examples:

Example 1: Kathy nestled the black kitten in her arms.

“Kitten” is an example of a concrete noun. A kitten registers with the five senses: you can see a kitten, pet its fur, smell its breath, hear it purr and taste its kisses.

Example 2: Kyle and Nina ordered a large pizza for lunch.

“Pizza” is an example of a concrete noun. You can see, feel, smell and taste pizza.

Abstract nouns

Abstract nouns name things you cannot see, hear, smell, taste or fell. In other words, abstract nouns are not tangible. They name actions, events, ideas, states of mind and qualities. Consider the following abstract nouns:

Actions and events: childhood, Friday, September, war

Ideas: energy, freedom, ideas, luck

States of mind: anger, courage, depression, freedom

Qualities: beauty, truth, kindness, truth

Conditions: cancer, a cold, the flu, diabetes

Abstract nouns exist, but your senses cannot perceive them. Instead, you are encompassing the meaning because you perceive its existence even though you cannot picture it in your mind. Consider the following examples:

Example 1: When Anthony dove into the swimming pool to rescue a drowning child, his bravery amazed the people sitting poolside.

“Bravery” is an abstract noun. You can see the other nouns “Anthony,” “swimming pool” and “people.” You cannot see the quality “bravery.” It has no flavor, texture, size, shape or color.

Example 2: Naomi’s childhood was traumatic.

“Childhood” is an example of an abstract noun. You can see the other nouns “Naomi” and “private detective.” You cannot see Naomi’s “childhood.”

While abstract nouns are intangible, in some cases, you may question whether a noun is concrete or abstract or feel unsure. Consider the following example:

Example 1: Samantha saw the jump from the corner of her eye.

In order for a jump to take place, there is a jumper (subject), and the “jumper” is omitted in the above sentence. “The jump” is an abstract noun. By writing “the jump,” you change a verb into a noun and abstract the animal, person or thing that did “the jumping.” If you wanted to avoid the abstract noun “jump,” you would write:

Samantha saw the fish jump above the lake’s surface from the corner of her eye.

When the sentence is reconstructed, “jump” turns into a verb, eliminating the use of “jump” as an abstract noun. You can imagine a jump occurring, but you cannot imagine it without the fish doing the action.