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Abstract Nouns

Abstract nouns are a type of noun that you can't see or touch. A noun is a person, place or thing. However, in many cases, that 'thing' may be an intangible concept, or an abstract form of noun.

In this instance, abstract refers to something that exists apart from concrete existence. An abstract noun may include an aspect, concept, idea, experience, state of being, trait, quality, feeling, or other entity that can't be experienced with the five senses.

Recognizing When a Noun Is Abstract

Concrete nouns are people, places, or things that we can experience with our five senses. The abstract class of noun is the opposite. We can't experience these nouns with our senses. If a noun is abstract, it describes something you can't see, hear, touch, taste, or smell.

It can be difficult to recognize when a noun is abstract because there are so many 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.

  • I love my husband. [In this sentence, the word love expresses an action and is, therefore, acting as a verb.]

  • Send them my love. [In this sentence, the word love functions as an abstract noun because it is a thing that exists beyond the five senses.]

  • Sarah could taste cilantro in the salsa. [In this sentence, the auxiliary verb "could" functions with "taste" to illustrate action. She can physically taste the salsa.]

  • Sarah has great taste in clothes. [In this sentence, taste functions in an abstract manner. Taste refers to her preferences.]

Common Abstract Nouns

Abstract nouns can be countable or uncountable (mass). They can also be singular or possessive. Abstract nouns follow the same grammar rules as other nouns. Let's take a look at common examples, broken out by category.

Emotions/Feelings

  • Love

  • Hate

  • Anger

  • Peace

  • Pride

  • Sympathy

States/Attributes

  • Bravery

  • Loyalty

  • Honesty

  • Integrity

  • Compassion

  • Charity

  • Success

  • Courage

  • Deceit

  • Skill

  • Beauty

  • Brilliance

  • Pain

  • Misery

Ideas/Concepts/Ideals

  • Belief

  • Dream

  • Justice

  • Truth

  • Faith

  • Liberty

  • Knowledge

  • Thought

  • Information

  • Culture

  • Trust

  • Dedication

Movements/Events

  • Progress

  • Education

  • Hospitality

  • Leisure

  • Trouble

  • Friendship

  • Relaxation

Forming Abstract Nouns Using Suffixes

Abstract forms of nouns are very common and an important part of communication. In many cases, these nouns are derived by adding a suffix or alteration to 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:

  • -tion

  • -ism

  • -ity

  • -ment

  • -ness

  • -age

  • -ance

  • -ence

  • -ship

  • -ability

  • -acy

Using Abstract vs. Concrete Nouns in Writing

Abstract nouns name things that can't be seen, heard, tasted, smelled, or touched. We define them on some level and use them to share information. An important precaution for students and writers is the danger in being misunderstood when using these nouns in our writing.

Words like love, freedom, beauty, taste, and justice might mean different things to different people. To one person, good taste may mean eclectic and original; to another person, good taste may mean clean and modern.

Teachers and writing coaches often recommend using concrete nouns to support abstract references, thus clarifying the message you're trying to convey. Although these nouns give expression to intangible entities, sentences with fewer abstract and more concrete nouns are typically more concise and clear.

Additional Resources

Teachers begin 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. Any one of these resources will help you with learning or lesson planning:

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