Concrete & Abstract Nouns‏‎ in English Grammar

Nouns are words used to name objects, concepts, ideas, things and so on. We can classify nouns in different ways including dividing them into Concrete Nouns and Abstract Nouns.

Concrete Nouns include:

  • house
  • banana
  • football
  • school

Abstract Nouns include:

  • love
  • humor
  • fear
  • bravery
  • belief

Taking a look at the picture on this page there are several nouns referenced, some of which are concrete and some of which are abstract:

concrete: finger, hand, badge…
abstract: love, life feelings, belief…

Identifying Concrete Nouns
This is fairly straightforward. If a noun is concrete we can sense it with one of our 5 main senses. In other words, we can:

  • see it
  • hear it
  • smell it
  • touch it
  • taste it

I saw the man.

Did you hear that noise?

This perfume smells wonderful!

The boiler felt cold.

This pasta tasted of mushroom.

All those nouns highlighted are concrete nouns.

Identifying Abstract Nouns
Quite simply, if we can’t do any of those five things with a noun it is known as an abstract noun.

For example, take a look at the following sentence where the nouns are highlighted.

Eric walked to the shop and bought some bread and water.

All the nouns can be sensed in some way. However, in this next example some of the nouns cannot be sensed in the usual way:

Love is like a rose; it has beauty but, if handled wrongly, causes pain.

Only rose is a concrete noun which can be sensed; the other nouns have no color, taste, smell, touch or sound.

Abstract & Concrete Nouns and TEFL
Is there any point in classifying nouns as concrete or abstract with your ESL class?

No, in 99% of cases there isn’t. The grammar for both is exactly the same and whether a noun is abstract or concrete will, in by far the majority of cases, make no difference.

Exploring this idea with your class is just likely to confuse them.

Useful Links
Nouns in English Grammar – a good look at nouns in general

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Posted in Parts of Speech.

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