abstract nouns

Discussion in 'English Only' started by chinamike, Jun 26, 2011.

  1. chinamike Member

    what's abstract noun? why "year" "story(tale)" are not abstract nouns? We can't physically touch or feel it,but they are not abstract? my grammar book says they are individual nouns,why?
    and even still i think "noun" should be "abstract noun"! cuz we cant physically feel it,right?
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2011
  2. EStjarn

    EStjarn Senior Member

    Here is one definition:
    An abstract noun:
    - is a word used to describe intangible concepts such as: states, events, concepts, feelings, qualities, etc., that have no physical existence
    - is a word that cannot be perceived through the five physical senses of: hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting and touching
    - is the opposite of a concrete noun
    - can be either countable or uncountable.
    Why is 'year' not an abstract noun? - Frankly, I thought it was. We can't perceive a year with our senses; it has no physical existence. A year is a unit of time, and time is, according to the list of abstract nouns found on the above hyperlinked webpage, an abstract noun. Though the effects of time can be perceived, time itself cannot.

    Why is 'story' (tale) not an abstract noun? - Like with 'year', I would have thought that it was an abstract noun. Here's an argument for it: Let's say there are ten listeners and a taleteller who has just completed telling his story. Each listener has been presented with the same words (i.e. sounds with specific meanings tied to them) which, put together, are supposed to amount to the taleteller's story. Technically, then, we should have eleven instances of the same story. But do we necessarily have that? Probably not. There are two 'filters' that the original story has to pass through: the taleteller's delivery of it and the listeners' interpretation of it. So that in fact we may end up with eleven different versions. This, to me, points to that 'story' is an abstract noun. Something that exists only in the minds of people.

    The grammar book says that 'year' and 'story' are individual nouns. - I think an individual noun is the opposite of a collective noun. If that's correct, I believe your grammar has it right. I'm not sure it's related at all to the classification of nouns into concrete and abstract nouns.

    Is 'noun' an abstract noun? - I would say it is. What one might ask is if 'word' is abstract or concrete? I think it's like with 'story'. A word is a word only if we agree that a sound has a meaning. If we can't recognize the word, it's just a sound to us, not a word. So again it's something that exists only in our minds, and therefore abstract.
  3. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    British English
    That's a pretty dubious website you are quoting as a reference, Estjarn. Read down to the test:
    "to travel" is an abstract noun?

    Although I have no problem with its definition of an abstract noun.
  4. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
    Why do you think 'year' and 'story' are not abstract nouns? I have no exact definition of abstract noun, because I don't think it's important in English grammar. The most typical abstract nouns are also uncountable - you can't have one honesty, two honesties. This is a matter of grammar: whether you can use numbers with it and make plurals. But abstract is not the same as uncountable. You can have one idea, two ideas, and they're certainly abstract.
  5. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    Hello chinamike,

    What does your book say about abstract nouns? What examples does it give?

    I would generally use 'abstract noun' as it is defined in < EStjarn's > post above. And I agree that 'story' and 'year' would be abstract nouns. Does your book say they aren't? Without more information and context, it is hard to explain why they would do that.
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2011
  6. EStjarn

    EStjarn Senior Member

    That's obviously a mistake, and the only one I can detect on that page. One mistake does not automatically make a website dubious. But there are probably more authoritative references out there. In case you have a more reliable source, it might be a good idea to share it. I chose this one because, apart from being among the first I came across after checking Wikipedia's section on abstract nouns, its theory section was to the point and easy to understand. (Though important, authority is not everything.)
  7. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    British English

    It does if the website sets itself up to be a teaching resource for people learning English. There are at least two other poorly written sentences in that test, but that's not really the point - the site's definition of an abstract noun is perfectly acceptable. However, as entangledbank wrote, whether or not a noun is abstract or concrete is wholly unimportant in English. Why teach people concepts that are irrelevant to their being able to speak or write the language?
  8. chinamike Member

    Thanks, Cagey,my book says "year" and "story(tale)" are "individual nouns ",and individual nouns are included in concrete nouns--so they mean "year" and "story" must be "concrete nouns"(the very opposite of abstract nouns ),not abstract nouns.
    And also,just as what Entangledbank said ,"The most typical abstract nouns are also uncountable ".As "year" and "story" are both countable(we say "one year /two stories"),it seems sure they shall not be "abstract nouns"?
  9. Tazzler Senior Member

    American English
    I suppose because a year can double as a unit of measurement (thus giving it some kind of "physical presence," for lack of a better word, and a tale can be given physical substance if it is written down. The distinction is not very clear-cut.
  10. chinamike Member

    Thank u, EStjarn.
    My book just says nouns are divided into "concrete nouns "(most typically countable)and "abstract nouns"(most typically uncountable).And individual nouns ,collective nouns ,mass nouns are all "concrete nouns ".---So,obviously they mean individual nouns like"year" and "story" shall not be "abstract nouns".
    I also do think "year" and "story" are definitely abstract. But maybe grammer experts use "abstract noun" as a special term? Maybe not all abstract nouns can be called "abstract nouns"?
    Nouns in English are so complicated. U know in chinese there are totally not these "countable/uncountable" "abstract/concrete" stuff,we do not use any "articals" and we even do not need "plural"! we use nouns all the same everywhere! no need "a/the",no need "-s"! ^_^
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2011
  11. scrotgrot Senior Member

    English - English
    Abstract nouns refer to states of being, like anger, abstraction, difference.

    Concrete nouns refer to things that can be indicated - stories, nouns can both be pointed to insofar as language encodes them. Can a year be indicated?

    I suspect it may refer to qualia. A quale is something that you can experience, but you can never be sure that others are having the same experience, even if they use the same word for it. The classic example is "how do I know other people don't think the sky is green, and they just call green blue and vice versa?" Emotional states are all qualia because you can never fully describe them to other people.

    But things like stories and nouns and years are NOT qualia. By and large, everybody is sure they are talking about the same thing when they mean stories, nouns and years. If there are differences of opinion, like the one we're having over abstract noun, the important thing is that there is some sort of objective definition somewhere out there.

    With qualia, you can argue till the cows come home but you'll never prove the other person experiences the same colour sky you do.

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