"The value of many things in life are based on how much we desire them, rather than their usefulness. "

If 'things' was say something physical like gold bars I might use the word objects/items. Are there any others?

But what about if it is something non-tangible? E.g. grades (in the sense they aren't quite a physical object)/respect/love?

What are words I could use in place of things in this case?

Upon reading the answers below I believe there is no word that suits the objective above and I will have to break "things" down into what type of non-tangible thing it is as per e.g. this list

  • Nothing wrong with this sentence other that that are should be is. Just replace things by whatever you're thinking about. Make it specific/concrete. Commented Oct 9, 2016 at 5:16
  • Hi Richard. As 'things' in my sentence represents many different things (i.e. plural) should it still be 'is'? I was a bit confused when I read it and I thought e.g. "many things are" sounds better than "many things is".
    – K-Feldspar
    Commented Oct 9, 2016 at 5:21
  • I agree I should make it concrete and usually try to. However, in this case I wanted to specify a variety of things and was looking for a word I could use to mean a variety of things and hence can't make it concrete without listing each and all of them out.
    – K-Feldspar
    Commented Oct 9, 2016 at 5:23
  • 1
    The subject of the sentence is value, not many things, so the verb should be is rather than are. If you can find an alternative for things, the sentence will still have an indefinite aspect to it. It will beg for examples or a list. For example: "The value of many things in life, such as family, friends, and work, is based on how much we desire them, rather than on their usefulness." Commented Oct 9, 2016 at 5:36
  • 1
    I should have added some examples like antique cars, jewelry, rare books, ... I'm sure you have your list. :-) Commented Oct 9, 2016 at 12:40

4 Answers 4



oxforddictionaries.com definition:

A fact or situation that is observed to exist or happen, especially one whose cause or explanation is in question. ‘glaciers are interesting natural phenomena’ -


incorporeal: (adj.) Not composed of matter, having no material existence. (Google online definition)

So, for example, one might say, "I was afraid to enter the old house when the villagers told me of its ghostly presences and incorporeal beings".

Ghostly presences and incorporeal beings - (Google)

The Business Dictionary online offers another context of incorporeal: Intangible personal property having value but lacking physical substance, such as leases, mortgages and property rights.

So, one might say, "I was forced to seek the advice of my lawyer when my next door neighbor blocked my right of way over the strip of land between our properties. My lawyer advised me to go to court to protect and enforce my incorporeal rights otherwise the value of my property will diminish.

  • Thank you for the suggestion Peter Point. I guess my only issue with incorporeal is I would still need to use a word after it e.g. incorporeal object/substance. So it would work well when the subject is e.g. ghosts like in your example. But is there any word that represents "things" when these things are love/respect/achievements/knowledge which aren't things you can hold and hence I can't use the word items/objects/beings after it.
    – K-Feldspar
    Commented Oct 9, 2016 at 4:31
  • As in I would like a word that represents a variety (i.e. multiple unspecified things not just a single thing) of non material things rather than e.g. in the case of incorporeal rights ... this only represents rights. Or incorporeal beings, this only represents beings...............Whereas for physical things I can use objects/items as they mean more than one/one type of thing (without specifying exactly what that thing is)
    – K-Feldspar
    Commented Oct 9, 2016 at 4:32

If you are talking about intangible things which are positive you could use pleasures (as in "One of the minor pleasures of life is the smell of freshly cut grass"); or joys (as in "The sound of the dawn chorus is one of the great joys of life").

On the other hand intangible things which are negative could be referred to as trials (meaning 3, here), possibly used with tribulations; or annoyances (as in "Spam emails are one of life's annoyances").

It is also possible to use 'intangibles' itself as a plural noun (sales people often refer to financial products such as insurance and pensions as 'intangibles') and the phrase 'intangible benefits' covers many things like the feeling of security one gets from living in an area with a low crime rate, or the stimulation associated with living in a vibrant community.

There are many more possibilities, of course, depending on the context. The trick is not to overuse any of them!


The use of "things" in the context above adequately covers all tangible and intangible items and objects as far as I can determine. Why try to complicate something that has been understood and used for hundreds of years?

  • Maybe the example I provided was not the best one. I am working on improving my essay writing for a class I am taking and am finding I use the word 'things' frequently in my writing (i.e. multiple times per essay), so I am trying to substitute it out so it doesn't appear as often.
    – K-Feldspar
    Commented Oct 9, 2016 at 4:25
  • Also note I do not require one word that covers both tangle and intangible items (unless that does exist other than "things"). I am equally interested in words that just cover intangible things separately..
    – K-Feldspar
    Commented Oct 9, 2016 at 4:41

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