Concrete Nouns

Concrete Nouns

A concrete noun refers to something that can be seen, touched, tasted, heard or smelt (i.e., perceived with at least one of your senses).

Easy Examples of Concrete Nouns

  • Jack, Jill, bed, wood, spear, pork, salt, groan

More Examples of Concrete Nouns

It's helpful to think of a concrete noun as the opposite of an abstract noun. (An abstract noun refers to something you cannot perceive with one of your five senses.)
Example of a Concrete Noun (intangible)Example of an Abstract Noun(tangible)
Be aware that classifying a noun as concrete or abstract may depend on context or even the classifier's definition of perceivable.
  • My next work of art will require some hard work.
  • (No one would argue that the highlighted work in this sentence is a concrete noun. However, the bolded work is more subjective. When it means "a task needing effort", work is generally classified as an abstract noun. However, some would argue that you can feel work and would classify it as concrete too.)
Some nouns will be abstract in one meaning but concrete in another.
  • You may be able to fool the voters but not the atmosphere. (American environmental scientist Donella Meadows)
  • (When atmosphere refers to the envelope of gases surrounding the earth, it's concrete.)
  • Moscow had an intense atmosphere of darkness and secrecy. (American author Alan Furst)
  • (When atmosphere refers to the pervading mood of a place, it's abstract.)

Why Should I Care about Concrete Nouns?

Even though poets often tackle the concepts covered by abstract nouns (e.g., love, loneliness), they usually reach for concrete nouns to convey their thoughts, believing that abstract nouns and their derivatives (e.g., we were in love, she was lonely) tell their readers very little about their subjects. For poets, the challenge is often to capture these abstract feelings using concrete nouns.
  • It's not needed anymore, the lead that hangs inside the door, and your bowl still scrapes the slated floor, when tapped by foot instead paw.
  • (Poets like to use concrete nouns to carry the emotion of an abstract noun, which is loss in this example.)
There is no good reason to learn about concrete nouns from a business-writing perspective. However, as so many language courses cover this term, it may be worth learning about them (and abstract nouns) from a passing-your-course perspective.

Remember, a noun is labelled as concrete or abstract based on its meaning not its grammatical function. In other words, concrete nouns and abstract nouns operate the same way grammatically.

Key Point

  • If writing a poem, consider expressing abstract ideas using concrete nouns.
  • If you're doing a language course that covers concrete nouns, then learn about them. If you're not and you're not poet…meh.
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