What are concrete and abstract nouns?

What are concrete and abstract nouns?
Concrete and abstract nouns explained for primary-school parents, including examples of how your child might be introduced to them in the classroom.

What are concrete and abstract nouns?

A noun is a 'thing'.

A concrete noun is something you can touch, such as a person, an animal, a place or a thing.
Concrete nouns can be common (man, city, film) or proper (Mr Edwards, London, Gone with the Wind). Proper nouns name a specific noun and always have a capital letter.

An abstract noun is a feeling or concept that you cannot touch, such as happiness or education.

What are children taught at each stage of primary school regarding nouns?

Children are expected to know what a noun is in Year 2. They also learn about noun phrases and expanded noun phrases. 

In Years 3 and 4, they learn about making nouns by adding prefixes and suffixes. They also learn to use pronouns rather than repeating the same noun.

They are not currently expected at any stage of primary school to know the difference between concrete and abstract nouns though they might discuss abstract nouns when looking at figurative language and personification.

In the Year 6 test, a child may be asked to turn an adjective into a noun by adding a suffix (for example: turning the adjective 'careless' into the abstract noun 'carelessness') however this question will not require them to have explicit knowledge of abstract nouns.

What could you do at home to help your child understand concrete and abstract nouns?

  • Ask your child to go through their reading book and make a list of concrete nouns and a list of abstract nouns.
  • Give your child a dictionary or thesaurus. Allow them to flick through and see if they can find any abstract nouns.
  • Give your child a list of adjectives and ask them to change them into abstract nouns, for example: sad, dirty, bright, empty, cold (answers: sadness, dirtiness, brightness, emptiness, coldness). This is also a good spelling activity, as it requires your child to think about adding suffixes to adjectives ending in -y.
  • Write some concrete nouns on red card and some abstract nouns on blue card (concrete nouns could be: tree, house, table, book, bread; abstract nouns could be: patience, weakness, wisdom, friendship, chaos). Turn all the cards over and ask your child to choose a red card and a blue card. They then need to think of a sentence containing both nouns.