Introduction
What is a noun?
Count and mass nouns
Count and mass uses
of nouns
Unit nouns
Problematic points
Concrete and abstract nouns
Compound nouns
Common nouns from proper nouns
   
 
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
 
Concrete and Abstract Nouns

The distinction between concrete and abstract cuts across the count noun/mass noun distinction. Concrete nouns, whether they are count nouns or mass nouns denote easily definable objects most often, which you can observe. Abstract nouns, on the other hand, may refer to ideas, feelings, attitudes, states, etc., which are much more difficult to delineate or define, and which cannot be observed directly. Text A from The Elephant Man has no abstract nouns in it; Text B, from the website about Joseph Merrick, has quite a few: sensitivity, courage, ability, rarity, century, struggle, background, circumstances. In addition to the fact that most of these nouns are longer than the concrete nouns in Text A, the reader will also need more time to process or interpret them, because their meaning is less clear cut. It seems fair to say that the nature of the nouns in a text is at least one of the features that make a text simple or difficult to read. A high proportion of abstract nouns will make it difficult; whether the nouns are count nouns or mass nouns seems less important.

The flower - a truly concrete object - in this photo is called thrift. In another context that very word also has an abstract sense, meaning of the word is 'the quality of being economical, not spending too much'! It is tempting to speculate that the name of the flower is a metaphor on the basis of the abstract meaning - or is it the other way around? What do you think?


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