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Difference Between Concrete and Abstract Nouns

english-dictionary-pdConcrete vs. Abstract Nouns

‘Noun’ is a big lexical category in itself. It is a word that has various sub classifications. It is primarily used as the subject in a sentence, or as the object of a particular action or verb. Nevertheless, it’s fairly easy to discern several subcategories of nouns, like telling the difference between countable and uncountable nouns, and also the disparity between proper and common nouns. However, what most readers find more difficult, is separating abstract from concrete nouns.

Well, once you see examples of an abstract or a concrete noun, it will be easier to discuss their differences. But first, concrete nouns are those nouns that can be seen or perceived by the senses. If you can see it, feel it, taste it, hear it or smell it, then that thing is most likely something that can be regarded as concrete. They are those that are described as tangible. Hence, it can be a person, a location, an object or any other tangible matter.

If you are going to say: “The instructor is going to teach the lesson to his pupils”, then in here you can spot three concrete nouns, namely: The instructor, the lesson and the pupils.

On the contrary, abstract nouns (from the term itself) are those that pertain to other things that are not readily observed or perceived by the human senses. These are the so-called intangible ‘things’ or objects.

A good example is when you say: ‘The awardee was overwhelmed with joy upon receiving his award on stage. However, the other student who failed to be awarded was enveloped with envy.’ In these sentences, the first abstract noun is joy and the second is envy.

Because of this definition, abstract nouns often include ideas, emotions, feelings, a sense of quality or even a sort of a characteristic. Other good examples of abstract nouns that fit this description are love, knowledge and heroism. One may argue that love can be felt, but it really can’t, because you are not able to touch love physically, or rub it against your skin.

The only confusion sets in when the noun is used differently among various sentences. Let’s say: ‘Art is a necessary addition to human life.’ Art in this sense is used as a concept. Hence, it is an abstract noun because it (the word in itself) cannot be touched or perceived by the senses. However, if one will state it like: ‘My art was hung on the wall.’ This time the art is a concrete one, because it is tangible, and the word is now pertaining to art as a piece of artwork. This is the problem of context within sentences.

Overall, concrete and abstract nouns are opposite to one another. To summarize, their differences include:

1. Concrete nouns are those that can be perceived by the senses, whereas abstract nouns can’t be perceived by such.

2. Concrete nouns are synonymous to tangible objects, while abstract nouns are intangible.


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