An abstract noun is a type of noun that refers to something with which a person cannot physically interact. A noun is a person, place or thing. However, in many cases, the 'thing' might be an intangible concept – which means it is an abstract form of noun. In this instance, abstract means to exist apart from concrete existence. A noun that is abstract is an aspect, concept, idea, experience, state of being, trait, quality, feeling, or other entity that cannot be experienced with the five senses.
Concrete nouns are people, places, or things that we would experience with our five senses. The abstract class is the opposite - we can never experience these nouns according to our senses. If a noun is abstract, it describes something you cannot see, hear, touch, taste, or smell.
Sometimes it can be difficult to recognize when the noun is abstract because there are a number of words that can function in different ways. For example, some words might function as verbs in some cases and abstract nouns in other cases. Love and taste are two examples.
Abstract nouns can be countable or non-countable (mass). They can also be in singular or possessive form. Abstract nouns follow the same grammar rules as other nouns.
More examples of abstract nouns are included in Examples of Abstract Nouns.
Abstract forms of nouns are very common and an important part of communication. In many cases these types of nouns are derived from an addition of a suffix or alteration in the root word. Child is a concrete noun, for example, but childhood is an intangible state, so it is abstract.
Nouns with the following suffixes are often abstract:
Abstraction is an important part of communication. Abstract nouns name things that can't be seen, heard, tasted, smelled or touched, but allow us to express information by defining them on some level. An important precaution for students and writers, however, is that there is the danger of the being misunderstood when using abstract forms in writing.
Words like love, freedom, beauty, taste, and justice, might mean different things to different people. To one person, good taste means eclectic and original; to another good taste might mean clean and modern. Teachers and writing coaches often recommend using concrete nouns to support any abstract references, thereby clarifying the message you are trying to convey.
Understanding and recognizing abstract nouns is important. Although these nouns give expression to intangible entities, sentences with fewer abstract and more concrete nouns are typically more concise and clear.
Teachers begin lessons on differentiating abstract and concrete nouns in elementary school and reinforce the concept in middle school. ESL teachers may also complete lesson plans and activities based on abstract nouns. For example:
A final reminder: A noun that is abstract is an aspect, concept, idea, experience, state of being, trait, quality, feeling, or other entity that cannot be experienced with the five senses.
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