What is an abstract noun? If you are looking for words to describe conceptual ideas, you might want to use abstract nouns. Abstract nouns are a type of noun that illustrate metaphysical concepts — notions that someone can not identify with their physical senses. But what else is there to abstract nouns and how do you use them? This article will explore what abstract nouns are, show some examples of abstract nouns, and compare them to their grammatical opposite — concrete nouns.
What is an Abstract Noun?
This is an easy concept to understand and in this section, we are going to fully explain the abstract noun so that you can become confident in using them within your spoken and written English.
What is an abstract noun? In English, Abstract nouns refer to abstract objects which you cannot see, hear, touch, smell, or taste (ideas or concepts).
If you can perceive something through one of your senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, or smell), the name of that thing is a concrete noun. If the thing you are describing is not a physical object, its name is an abstract noun. In the sentence “New clothes bring me joy,” “clothes” is a concrete noun; “joy” is an abstract noun.
An abstract noun is a type of noun that refers to a concept or idea. Abstract nouns illustrate things that can not be touched, tasted, smelled, seen, heard, or otherwise felt through the physical senses. They do not refer to physical objects, but rather notions, emotions, or states of being.
Abstract Noun and Concrete Noun
Abstract nouns can be used to refer to feelings and ideas, and also events that are conceptual and unspecific in nature (like a “holiday” or a “birthday“). Since abstract nouns reference things that can not be perceived with the five senses, they are contrasted with concrete nouns.
Concrete nouns are nouns that denote things that can be touched or sensed. They refer to objects in the physical world; and do not refer to ideas or emotions. Concrete nouns also have a plural form, whereas most (but not all) abstract nouns do not have a plural form.
Abstract nouns, as conceptual words, often have suffixes such as -ism, -acy, -ance, -ence, -age, -ability, -ness, -ment, -ship, -ity, or -ion. Thus words like “capitalism” or “democracy” are considered to be abstract nouns.
Finally, abstract nouns can be sometimes be used as concrete nouns — but this depends on context. The word “atmosphere” can be an abstract noun referring to the mood of a place. for example, but “atmosphere” can also be a concrete noun referring to the physical gases surrounding a planet.
For this reason, context is important, but a better understanding of abstract nouns will make these types of distinctions easier.
Abstract Nouns vs. Concrete Nouns
Abstract nouns refer to things that cannot be sensed in physical terms — whereas concrete nouns reference things only in the physical world. Here are some examples of abstract nouns, with some concrete nouns with which they might be associated.
- Sorrow vs. Tears – Whereas “sorrow” is an abstract noun referring to a state of sadness, “tears” is a concrete noun that references something that can be sensed (tears are salty, watery, moist, etc.).
- Love vs. Kiss – “Love” is an abstract noun that refers to a feeling of affection, whereas a “kiss” is a concrete noun that refers to a physical thing that can be felt through touch. Note that both words can also be used as verbs.
- Strength vs. Muscle – “Strength” is an abstract noun that references power, physical or mental — or an unwillingness to relent or submit, whereas “muscle” is a concrete noun that refers to sinew or tissues that have physical properties (can be touched, seen, or felt).
- Success vs. Money – “Success” is an abstract noun defining a state of achievement, whereas “money” is a concrete noun that generally (but not always) refers to physical objects that can be exchanged for goods (dollar bills, coins, etc.)
- Happiness vs. Smile – “Happiness” is an abstract noun that refers to a state of high well-being or contentedness, whereas a “smile” denotes a concrete noun that refers to a facial expression that can be seen.
- Birthday vs. Cake – A “birthday” is an abstract noun that refers to a day of the year when someone was born. A “cake” is a concrete noun referring to a thing that can be seen, touched, smelled, tasted, etc.
When you are talking about something which cannot be perceived by one of the human senses, you will require the use of the abstract noun. In other words, if something is not tangible, its name is an abstract noun, for example, bravery, education, or intelligence. These are all nouns which refer to something that cannot be physically sensed.
Abstract Nouns Examples
Here are some examples of abstract nouns referring to emotions, states, ideas, concepts, events, and qualities.
Abstract Nouns List (A-Z)
- Customer service
Examples of Abstract Nouns in Sentences
- An employer should appraise the ability of his employees.
- He felt he would burst with anger and shame.
- I opened the packet just to satisfy my curiosity.
- Her dedication to her work was admirable.
- He listened in disbelief to this extraordinary story.
- He is admired for the elegance of his writing.
- Our friendship has steadily strengthened over the years.
- The economic growth dipped to a low point last year.
- May Christmas and the New Year be filled with happiness for you.
- He has no hope of passing the examination.
- Inflation is considered to be undesirable because of its adverse effects on income distribution.
- We must face tomorrow, whatever it may hold, with determination, joy, and bravery.
- Without respect, love cannot go far.
- In my humble opinion, he will win the election.
- I take it as a pleasure to attend your lecture.
- He smiled in satisfaction when he won the race.
- The onrush of tears took me by surprise.
- The trend at the moment is towards a more natural and less made-up look.
- Unemployment is likely to go on rising this year.
- Wisdom in the mind is better than money in the hand.
- He has exhibited symptoms of anxiety and overwhelming worry.
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