Abstract Nouns

Abstract nouns are names which are opposed to Concrete nouns. Both are names. We consider words like table, stone, boy, as concrete; but words like happiness, sonship, boyhood as abstract.

  1. On what basis do we make such distinctions?

  2. What are these nouns?

  3. Can we have some examples used in sentences?

What are Abstract Nouns?

We use our senses to recognize human beings, animals, material things, i.e. things which occupy space. We call such things concrete. Hence, the names of concrete things are concrete nouns in grammar. (You already know that nouns are names.)

Unlike these concrete things, we have concepts such as justice, honesty, presidency, ministry, childhood, happiness, intelligence etc. It is our mind which grasps (i.e. understands) these concepts.

The words justice, honesty, presidency, ministry, childhood, happiness, intelligence etc are names of such concepts. In grammar, the names of abstract things are referred to as abstract nouns.

These names are, therefore, names of things (realities) we can grasp (recognize)...

  • only with our mind

  • and not with any of our five senses.

Abstract Doesn't Mean Not Real

Just because our senses are not involved, we cannot say, that these concepts are not real.

Yes, they are immaterial...

  • not in the sense that they don't matter,
  • but in the sense that they aren't about space-occupying matter.

Would politicians go through so much trouble and expense if the Presidency or the Prime Ministership were not real? Definitely not!

Some of us enjoyed our childhood; others sadly did not. Childhood was real and we have happy or sad memories about it. But can you see or touch or taste your childhood? No. Can we therefore say that our childhood was not real?

Attempt to Concretize the Abstract

To make it easy to understand, people often substitute a concrete thing for an abstract concept. They might say, that the politicians are fighting for 'the chair'. But we know, that they are not referring to a chair which we can buy from a furniture shop!

When we refer to the chair of the Prime Minister, we are actually trying to materialize/concretize and simplify a difficult-to-grasp abstract concept, i.e. Prime Ministership.

When we talk about such immaterial things, we need labels (i.e. names). The names of such concepts or ideas are what we call abstract nouns in grammar.

Why Do We Call Them "Abstract"?

It is because we arrive at such concepts through the mental process of abstraction.

What is Abstraction?

For something to be itself, there are essential parts of it and inessential.

Abstraction is a mental process by which we remove the inessential, one by one, and retain what is essential for a thing to be what it is. We thus come to an idea or concept, which is a collection of essential (necessary) things for something to be itself. The name given to the resulting idea or concept is the Abstract Noun.

For example, we have seen many children (children are concrete) and we have through the process of abstraction come to the concept of childhood. All that is essential to be a child is childhood. There can be no child without childhood. Childhood is an abstract concept and the name childhood is the abstract noun.

Here's a list of abstract nouns...

To see the following examples used in sentences, click here.

ability, acceptance, arrangement, attitude, boyhood, chairmanship, childhood, depth, esteem, girlhood, goodwill, happiness, height, honesty, hope, integrity, joy, justice, knowledge, length, love, memory, nature, obligation, obscurity, proficiency, purpose, quality, quantity, requirement, result, sadness, scholarship, service, truth, understanding, urgency, victory, weight, youth, zenith, zest.

Click here for abstract noun sentences using the above examples.

For Further Reading and Study...

Related Pages

What is a Noun?

Kinds of Nouns

Common Nouns

Proper Nouns

Collective Nouns

Concrete and Abstract Nouns

Countable Nouns

Forms and Functions