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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.

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.