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I'm studying English to teach as a foreign language and can't completely grasp the difference between concrete and abstract nouns. For example, "recipe" is a noun. I understand that a recipe card would be a concrete noun but would recipe alone be an abstract noun i.e. an idea?

TIA Eloise

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  • A recipe can be a set of specific instructions as in "a recipe for eggs", as well as the more abstract "a recipe for disaster." Does Lexico cover it? Commented Feb 10, 2020 at 15:56
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    A single word can have both concrete and abstract senses. A 'football' may be bought, kicked, washed, popped, thrown away. You can have 2, 3.... But then 'football' (UK usage) can mean the whole over-arching institution, and beyond. From Messi to that hopeless guy in the end-terrace (me a few years back), from the local park to the San Siro. 'Soccer' in the US (though the connotations are vastly different). // Then there's the problem of classifying say 'laughter'. Abstract (no substance) or concrete (discernable)? // I've heard "She threw the recipe in the bin", so a concrete usage. Commented Feb 10, 2020 at 16:26
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    Recipe can refer to a text (which is pretty abstract, but is precise and can be repeated or analyzed), any number of physical objects that present it (like a file card, which is totally concrete), or some completely imaginary -- hence abstract -- metaphorical use, like recipe for disaster. No noun is ever always abstract, just like no verb is ever always transitive. Commented Feb 10, 2020 at 17:11
  • Nope. It is a piece of paper than lists ingredience Commented Feb 10, 2020 at 19:26
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    @JohnLawler - If no noun is ever always abstract, how does one make dread or wistfulness concrete? Can you please expand on what I'm misunderstanding?
    – nnnnnn
    Commented Feb 10, 2020 at 22:23

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John Lawler wrote:

Recipe can refer to a text (which is pretty abstract, but is precise and can be repeated or analyzed), any number of physical objects that present it (like a file card, which is totally concrete), or some completely imaginary — hence abstract — metaphorical use, like recipe for disaster. No noun is ever always abstract, just like no verb is ever always transitive.

nnnnnn asked:

If no noun is ever always abstract, how does one make dread or wistfulness concrete? Can you please expand on what I'm misunderstanding?

John Lawler clarified:

Easy; use them to name something. It's the opposite of metaphor, which makes abstractions by mismatching concrete phenomena.

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