If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

Concrete and abstract nouns

A concrete noun refers to a physical object in the real world, such as a dog, a ball, or an ice cream cone. An abstract noun refers to an idea or concept that does not exist in the real world and cannot be touched, like freedom, sadness, or permission.

Want to join the conversation?

  • piceratops seedling style avatar for user Me
    So if I can interact with a noun with any of the five senses (touch, sight, smell, taste, or hearing) then it's a concrete noun and if I can't interact with the noun in any of those ways it's an abstract noun. Is that a fair assessment?
    (310 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • hopper cool style avatar for user Jett Burns
    Is there ANY example of a concrete noun being abstract as well? Or is this impossible?
    (65 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user David Rheinstrom
      I was arguing with a friend about this a few weeks ago, when I was working on the exercises. I said, "Is a concrete noun used as a metaphor actually an abstract noun? Like, if I said "Variety is the spice of life", is spice, normally a concrete noun, now an abstract one?"
      And he was like, "No, dude. Just because it's a metaphor doesn't mean it doesn't have a reference in something concrete and real. The word is still the word, even if its context isn't physical." I think he's right.
      (143 votes)
  • mr pants teal style avatar for user maggiemoo611
    what about names are they concrete OR abstract ?
    (47 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • leaf blue style avatar for user SierraNightlight
      That is a really good question! A concrete noun is a noun that you can see, hear, smell, touch, and taste. An abstract noun is something that you cannot see, hear, smell, touch, or taste. It's a good question with a complex answer. But I suppose the best way to say it is both. You can hear your name when someone says it, see it on a piece of paper, but even then it is abstract because it's something that can't be grasped. A name is special to someone. It's also powerful as well (so I've heard). Correct me if I'm wrong, but I am pretty sure it's both. But it is also more concrete than it is abstract. Once again, great question! Don't be afraid to ask questions when you don't understand something. Because you never know if you help out someone else who has the same question until you ask it! I hope this helped you in some way.
      (87 votes)
  • spunky sam blue style avatar for user 1960535
    is key a concrete or abstract noun?
    (12 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Polina Vitić
      It depends on what you mean by "key":

      Concrete nouns are nouns that you can see, smell, hear, touch, or taste.

      Examples of concrete keys:
      - house keys
      - car keys
      - key signature in printed music ("key of G# minor")
      - keys on your laptop keyboard
      - piano keys (black or white)
      - test key with all the answers
      - map / chart key

      Abstract nouns are nouns that you cannot see, smell, hear, touch, or taste.

      Examples of abstract keys:
      - key to learning
      - key to success
      - key to the city (a ceremonial honor)

      Hope this helps!
      (51 votes)
  • leaf green style avatar for user Gavin
    Is air concrete? You can't smell it, or feel it, or touch it, or even taste it. You can't hear it, and I am talking about still air, not wind. So is air concrete? And why?
    (12 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user David Rheinstrom
      I think I'd argue that anything that has mass is concrete. The air we breathe is mostly nitrogen, with some oxygen and other bits. It has mass; ergo it is concrete.

      However, if you think about it too long, pretty much everything about the abstract/concrete divide comes down to a question about metaphysics. When I try to figure out whether or not light is abstract or concrete, my head starts to hurt.
      (30 votes)
  • starky ultimate style avatar for user Poe Van Stan
    what about languages such as English, Arabic, and Spanish are those concrete or abstract?
    (12 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Polina Vitić
      Good question! Spoken languages (including English, Arabic, and Spanish) are concrete.

      A concrete noun is tangible, and can be felt through the senses. Spoken language definitely fits this definition, because we hear language when we listen. If it's also a written language, we can see it when we are reading and writing.

      Hope this helps!
      (20 votes)
  • female robot ada style avatar for user ayeshabinteaamir
    OMG! I thought that I was awesome in English but when I went through your videos I found out that I'm not as well as I thought I am. Can anybody answer my question: Is "humidity" a concrete noun or an abstract noun?
    (10 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • blobby green style avatar for user jiyoonko82
    So what is place? Is it abstract or concrete?
    (8 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • male robot johnny style avatar for user baken greece
    Are concrete nouns the opposite of abstract nouns?
    (12 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Ani
    can someone help?
    I don't undersand a thing.
    (9 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user

Video transcript

- [Voiceover] Hello grammarians. So today I'd like to talk to you about the idea of concrete and abstract nouns, and before we do that, I'd like to get into some word origins or etymology. So let's take each of these words in turn, because I think by digging into what these words mean, literally what they mean and where they come from, we'll get a better understanding of this concept. So both of these words come to us from Latin. Concrete comes to us from the Latin concretus, which means to grow together. So this part of it means grown. And this part means together. It refers to something that, you know, has grown together and become thick and kind of hard to get through and physical. The connotation here is that this is a physical thing. Something that is concrete is physical. Abstract, on the other hand, means to draw something away. So something that is abstract is drawn away from the real, from the concrete, from the physical. So this is not physical. And we make this distinction in English when we're talking about nouns. Is it something that is concrete, is it something you can look at or pick up or smell or sense or something that is abstract, something that isn't physical, but can still be talked about. So for example, the word sadness... Is a noun, right? This is definitely a noun. It's got this noun-making ending, this noun-forming suffix, ness. You know, we take the adjective sad and we toss this ness part onto it, we've got a noun. But can you see sadness? Is it something you can pick up? Sure, you can tell by being, you know observant and empathetic that your friend is sad, but it's not something you can pick up. You can't be like a measurable degree of sad. You couldn't take someone's sadness, put it under a microscope and say "Oh, Roberta, you are 32 degrees microsad." You know, it's not something physical. Concrete things, on the other hand, are things that we can see or count or measure. Just parts of the physical world. So anything you look at, like a dog is concrete, a ball is concrete, a cliff is concrete. Happiness... Is abstract. The idea of freedom... Is abstract. Though the presence of freedom in your life may manifest in physical objects, like "Oh, my parents let me have the freedom to eat ice cream." Ice cream is, you know, a concrete noun. But freedom, the thing that allows you, you know, the permission that you get from your parents to have ice cream. That's not a physical object. So that's basically the difference. So a concrete noun is a physical object and an abstract noun is not. This is why I really wanted to hit the idea that a noun can be a person, place, thing or idea, because nouns can be ideas, and those ideas tend to be abstract. Sadness, happiness, freedom, permission, liberty, injustice. All of these are abstract ideas. That's the difference. You can learn anything. David out.