Whenever I think of a concrete noun, I think of something that can be perceived by the five senses.

I was wondering, if I could see a particular practice taking place, as in a series of football drills, would the word 'practice' be a concrete noun? I can also see a 'lesson' taking place, so would that also be a concrete noun?

Also, are sounds concrete nouns too? I can hear a 'bang', so would it be classed as a concrete noun?

Thanks in advance for any answers to clarify this.

  • You can perceive love with your eyes too. Practice is abstracted from the verb to practice. You identify it from a combination of people's actions, their environment, the props that they use. In the same way lesson is also an abstract concept from the Latin verb legere (to read). It is composed of a combination of people's actions, an environment like a school or other, and props. – mama Feb 13 at 18:34
  • I understand. What about sounds? Due to the fact that you can perceive them with your ears, are they concrete nouns, or abstract? – Tolga Feb 13 at 19:57

The concept of concrete and abstract nouns does not hold up to serious scrutiny.

In general, it seems that abstract noun describes an idea, a process, a state, or a group of things.

Practice is probably an abstract noun because it describes a collection of actions, or processes, and each of those actions or processes is abstract. Ball, leg, foot, and shoe are all concrete, but the action of kicking a ball, the kick is abstract.

Now, clearly you can see a kick - you can perceive that the leg has moved and the foot has collided with something. So maybe a kick is actually a concrete noun. Then let's try a more obviously abstract noun.

When you look up descriptions of abstract nouns, one thing that you'll almost always see mentioned is emotion. A smile, they say, is concrete, but happiness, the thing that causes the person to smile, is abstract.

With happiness, there seems to be nothing we can perceive - unless you define happiness as a mental state that is caused by an increase in certain chemicals in the brain. Brain chemistry can't be seen with the naked eye, but it can be perceived using special tools. And being visible to the naked eye must not really be the definition of concrete, since in that case, microorganisms would always be abstract.

Or, let's come at it from the other direction, with an example of a concrete noun.

A house seems like a nice, solid object. So what is a house? It seems to be a structure that someone lives in. But in that case, we're attributing a purpose (to be lived in), or a condition of existence (it is a house so long as someone lives in it) and purposes and conditions are definitely abstract.

When it comes down to it, there's no entirely satisfying way to define concrete and abstract.

Fortunately, it shouldn't matter.

To be frank, I don't know why anyone teaches this concept. Before answering this question, I read all the results that apapeared on the first page of a Google search and none even began to explain why it would matter whether a noun were concrete or abstract. Grammatically, there is no difference between a concrete and an abstract noun.

  • Thank you for your very informative evaluation of the concept. I believe that a source that I looked up once said that it was something to do with semantics rather than grammar (englicious.org/lesson/nouns/nouns-concrete-and-abstract). I think it is an interesting concept, but as you said, it does probably struggle to hold water under serious scrutiny. – Tolga Feb 14 at 10:32

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