Abstract Nouns: What Are Abstract Nouns? Definition and Examples

By Carly Forsaith, updated on August 14, 2023

Would you like to learn about abstract nouns? Then you're in the right place. This article will cover everything you need to know about them and how to use them in your writing.

In short:

  • Abstract nouns refer to non-physical things you can't perceive with your senses.

This guide is part of our free online Grammar Book.

What Are Abstract Nouns?

Before we get started, let's have a quick grammar review: what are nouns? Nouns are naming words, clauses, or phrases that you can use to refer to a person, place, or thing.

  • All nouns can be singular or plural; proper or common; countable or non-countable, and so on.
  • Abstract nouns are the opposite of concrete nouns. They refer to non-physical things that cannot be sensed. 

Here are some categories of this type of noun:

  • emotions/feelings
    love, fear, sympathy
  • characteristics
    tenderness, bravery, beauty
  • concepts
    socialism, knowledge, freedom
  • states
    beginning, life, peace
  • measurements of time
    hour, tomorrow, Monday
  • movements
    Christianity, feminism, Black Lives Matter

Following are some examples of abstract nouns (underlined) in a sentence.

It isn't an easy transition moving to another country.

I need you to do me a huge favor, please.

Do you believe our soul lives on after we die?

We'll need to set our differences aside in order to work together. 

Our friendship means a lot to me.

One thing to note about these words is that they often follow a particular pattern, which makes them easier to recognize and tell apart from concrete nouns.

That pattern is:

root word + suffix

The root word can be a verb, adjective, or other noun, and the suffix can be one of many.

Below are some examples.





-or / -er


-tion / -sion




Not all abstract nouns are formed this way, but when you see a noun that looks like this, you can be almost certain it's an abstract noun.

Nouns That Are Both Abstract and Concrete

It's important to note that despite the fact all nouns are either abstract or concrete, there are instances where some nouns can actually alternate between the two types. This will depend on the context.

Here are some examples:

The music is really loud.
Music brings my soul to life.

The Earth's atmosphere is retained by gravity.
I don't want to have lunch there; the atmosphere sucks. 

His latest painting is a work of art.
It was really hard work getting this piano in here.

Concluding Thoughts

That brings us to the conclusion of this article on abstract nouns. I hope you found it helpful.

Let's summarize what we've learned:

  • Nouns are naming words to refer to a person, place, animal, thing, idea, or concept.
  • Abstract nouns are for non-physical things that you cannot perceive.
  • Some nouns can be both abstract and concrete.

If you enjoyed this article, you might like our Grammar Book. It's a free online database full of grammar articles just like this one. Check it out!

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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