First, what is an abstract noun? We all know that a noun is a person, place or thing. But what about an “abstract noun”? Is it an “abstract” person, place or thing? Well, sort of. An abstract noun is a word that is “abstract” in the sense you cannot see it or feel it or touch it but it is a “thing” nevertheless. For example, “bravery” is an abstract noun. So is “deceit” “deception” and “administration.” These words are basically intangible. They convey concepts, ideas, feelings perceptions. These are “things” even though they are intangible and lack a concrete form.
Abstract nouns are tricky and can lead to a lot of interpretation issues, unlike concrete nouns such as “girl” “program” “master” and “plaintiff” which are clear on their face and do not leave as much to interpretation.
Many abstract nouns are re-worked verbs. For example, the verb “to interpret” becomes the abstract noun “interpretation.” These abstracts can be further re-worked into personal nouns as in the case of an “interpreter.”
It is impossible to speak English without using abstract nouns at least sometimes. However, in most instances it is probably better to use concrete nouns if you can rather than use an abstract noun. And why? Because concrete nouns are more precise and convey meaning much more clearly and precisely than abstract nouns do.
That said, abstract nouns are an essential part of spoken and written English communication.
Below is a table of abstract nouns you might like to make a note of. The selection is hardly exhaustive as far as abstract nouns go, but it is a good beginning point. Can you think of any others to fill in the table?:
ABSTRACT NOUNS FOR THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNER