Abstract Nouns in English: Usage, Examples, and Exercises

by Johnny Jacks
When learning about nouns, you will undoubtedly encounter confusion regarding the concept of abstract nouns and their usage in English. However, there is no need to worry, as the following article from Monkey will help you understand how to utilize abstract nouns in examinations.

Definition: What is an abstract noun?

To begin with, understanding concepts and abstract nouns is crucial foundational knowledge.

Concept: Abstract nouns, also known as Abstract Nouns, are nouns that denote things and phenomena that can be perceived through emotions and sensations, rather than the traditional senses of sight, touch, hearing, and taste. “Okay, I can smell it.”

For instance, glory, honor, courage, love, truth, honesty, and symbolism are all examples of abstract nouns.

Types of abstract nouns

Abstract nouns can be categorized in the following six common ways:

  1. Nouns for feelings: anxiety, pain, pleasure, stress, sympathy, etc.
  2. Nouns for emotions: anger, happiness, hate, sorrow (sadness), etc.
  3. Nouns for states: chaos (mess), freedom, luxury, peace, sadness (mystery), etc.
  4. Nouns for qualities: brilliance (intelligence), determination (resoluteness), trust, etc.
  5. Conceptual nouns: charity, culture, energy, etc.
  6. Event nouns: birthday, holiday, marriage (wedding), etc.

How to use abstract nouns in sentences

So, how can we use abstract nouns effectively in sentences? The following functions of abstract nouns will aid you in answering this question:

Abstract noun as the subject in a sentence

For example:

  • Love makes people foolish.
  • Courage leads to glory, cowardice leads to death.
  • Abstract noun as the object in a sentence

For instance:

  • Henry’s childhood memory has always been his fear.
  • Being a mother for the first time made her extremely happy.

With abstract nouns, there are instances where their usage may or may not be appropriate to avoid confusing the listener. Firstly, abstract nouns are entirely suitable in conversations that involve philosophical, existential, and ideological matters. They are also commonly used in discussions concerning emotions and sensations.

For example: It would be difficult to discuss these issues without them.

However, these nouns are not well-suited for practical discussions due to their generality and ambiguity.

For example: If you are writing an essay about the importance of choosing a career.

In this case, it is crucial to address a specific profession, such as a doctor, mechanic, or teacher, when discussing the importance of career choice.

How to identify abstract nouns

Here are the three simplest indicators to help you recognize abstract nouns:

3 Signs to identify abstract nouns

Abstract nouns are frequently marked by common suffixes such as -ment, -ion, -ness, and -ity.

The suffixes -ment and -ion often transform verbs into abstract nouns.

For example:

  • James achieved a record while participating in the school’s swimming tournament.
  • My grandmother used to have delusions when she was unwell.
  • Meanwhile, -ness and -ity are affixed to adjectives.

For instance:

  • The allure of money makes people blind.
  • Children’s curiosity often stems from adult life.

Abstract nouns can also be paired with other suffixes like -ship, -dom, -th, and -hood. While -ship and -hood are commonly added to other nouns, -th is only attached to adjectives to create abstract nouns. The suffix -dom can be combined with both nouns and adjectives.

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For example:

  • She has been striving for a scholarship to study in France next semester.
  • Freedom is what every aspiring teenager yearns for.
  • A warm hug can uplift your spirits.
  • Motherhood is the most sacred emotion for humanity.

Some abstract nouns do not exhibit suffixes, such as:

  • anger
  • faith
  • luck
  • sense
  • belief
  • fear
  • principle
  • sight
  • calm
  • humor
  • rage
  • speed
  • chance
  • idea
  • reason
  • thought

Create abstract nouns by applying the appropriate suffixes

The name of the suffix

The method of usage

Abstract nouns

-ion

The suffix “ion” frequently attaches to a verb stem, transforming an action into a noun that can be utilized in a sentence.

attention

attraction

prediction

concentration

communication

recognition

invention

possession

appreciation

collection

confusion

decision

evasion

instruction

expression

-ness

Abstract nouns with the stem “ness” typically derive from an adjective stem, transforming a state or characteristic into a concept that can be used as a noun in a sentence.

sadness

loneliness

happiness

joyfulness

greatness

shyness

smoothness

dryness

kindness

laziness

ugliness

-ment

Nouns with the suffix “ment” typically originate from a verb stem, converting an action into a concept that can be employed as a noun in a sentence.

judgment

development

enhancement

improvement

punishment

disappointment

achievement

-gy

Abstract nouns ending in -gy often pertain to a particular discipline or field of study.

biology

apology

metallurgy

archeology

technology

terminology

anthropology

psychology

analogy

psychology

pathology

strategy

-phy

Nouns ending in -phy frequently denote the arts or certain social sciences.

geography

photography

choreography

cinematography

ethnography

autobiography

calligraphy

philosophy

-ism

Nouns ending in -ism often denote political ideas, philosophies, or religious beliefs.

Communism

Socialism

Capitalism

Fascism

Catholicism

Protestantism

Buddhism

Paganism

Confucianism

-ity

Nouns with the suffix -ity usually derive from an adjective stem, while abstract nouns with a suffix typically indicate capability, state, or quality.

quality

ability

agility

capability

probability

intensity

mentality

punctuality

-ship

Nouns with the suffix -ship commonly describe relationships or a particular skill.

friendship

relationship

viewership

scholarship

apprenticeship

swordsmanship

horsemanship

penmanship

-hood

Nouns with the suffix -hood are also employed to denote specific relationships, capabilities, and positions.

brotherhood

sisterhood

neighborhood

childhood

likelihood

motherhood

fatherhood

knighthood

priesthood

How to convert adjectives to abstract nouns

As mentioned earlier, a verb or adjective can be transformed into an abstract noun by appending a suffix and vice versa.

Transition of words to abstract nouns

For example:

Move → movement

Reflect → reflection

Perceive → perception

Conscious → consciousness

Appear → appearance

Resist → resistance

Appoint → appointment

Enjoy → enjoyment

Assign → assignment

Inform → information

Decide → decision

Describe → description

Determine → determination

Block → blockade

Converting adjectives to abstract nouns

For instance:

Brave → bravery

Truth → truth

Honest → honesty

Weak → weakness

Happy → happiness

Sad → sadness

Mad → madness

Responsible → responsibility

Possible → possibility

Probable → probability

Able → ability

Independent → independence

Free → freedom

Silent → silence

Distinguishing between concrete nouns and abstract nouns

Concrete nouns are distinguished from abstract nouns. So, how can we differentiate between these two types of nouns?

Criteria

Specific nouns

Abstract nouns

About the meaning

Specific nouns are words that refer to people, places, or things.

Specific nouns are words that refer to people, places, or things.

About the shape

Concrete nouns are tangible and can be perceived through human senses.

Abstract nouns are invisible, we cannot hold, touch or hear or see it.

About the senses

Concrete nouns can be perceived through the five senses: hearing, seeing, touching, tasting, and smelling.

Abstract nouns cannot be perceived through these five senses.

Regarding compatibility with other types of nouns

Specific nouns can also be proper nouns, common nouns, collective nouns, countable nouns, or uncountable nouns.

Abstract nouns can only be common nouns and uncountable nouns.

Exercises on abstract nouns in English

Finally, to strengthen your knowledge of the above abstract nouns, try your hand at the following exercises with Monkey!

Exercise 1: Identify and underline abstract nouns in the following sentences.

1. Honesty is the best policy.

2. There is no possibility for you to reach home by six in the evening.

3. This place has a really pleasant ambiance.

4. Pride goes before a fall.

5. Brevity is the soul of wit.

6. That man is testing my patience.

7. Have you read about the theory of evolution?

8. Truthfulness is always appreciated.

9. Gluttony is a sin.

10. What do you think about his idea?

Exercise 2: Use the suggested words in brackets to fill in the blanks with suitable abstract nouns.

1. He is a man of __________ (strong).

2. The people in this part of the country live in __________ (poor).

3. __________ to animals is a punishable offense (cruel)

4. He is on a __________ to Mecca (pilgrim).

5. I have great __________  to welcome you (please).

6. __________  is the best period of one’s life (child)

7. __________  should always be (waste).

8. As a parent my children’s __________ is of utmost importance to me (safe).

9. As the sun went below the horizon __________ enveloped the planet (dark).

10. There is no end to his __________ (wicked).

11. Slavery does not taste __________  (free).

12. __________ never goes with reward (honest).

13. Who does not love __________ (honest) ?

14. My friend did not accept my __________ (invite).

15. Nowadays, the internet is a storehouse of __________ (know).

16. __________ is said to be godliness (clean).

17. His employees were awarded for their __________ (brave).

Exercise 3: Choose suitable abstract nouns from the table below to complete the sentences.

beauty, goodness, happiness, kindness, strength, success, truth, wisdom

1. __________ , not evil

2. __________ , not falsehood

3. __________ , not ugliness

4. __________ , not cruelty

5. __________ , not the failure

6. __________ , not foolishness

7. __________ , not sorrow

8. __________ , not weakness

Exercise 4: Create abstract nouns from the following words accordingly.

-ment, -ance, -ity, -dom, -tion, -th, -ness, -hood, -ence, -acy

1. Real →

2. Hard →

3. Vacant →

4. Add →

5. Obedient →

6. High →

7. Real →

8. Move →

9. Stable →

10. Pay →

Exercise 5: Fill in the following sentences with suitable abstract nouns.

childhood, improvements, conditions, policies, deforestation, opportunities, benefits, lessons.

1. I don’t like working in a factory because it has terrible working __________.

2. I love my job since it has many __________ such as vacation and insurance.

3. There are many ____________ to find work for people living in big cities.

4. Many students have trouble understanding __________ in class.

5. ________________ has led to the extinction of many species.

6. She has played many outdoor games since her _______________.

7. There have been many changes in foreign _______________ made by the government.

8. We have seen a lot of ______________ in the local infrastructure.

Exercise 6: Read the following passage and determine whether the underlined words are concrete nouns or abstract nouns.

In a village, there are two boys named Zack and Cody. They live with their mother in a small house on a hill. They have a really good relationship with her. Zack has many talents while Cody is gifted with intelligence. They often help their neighbors with many tasks, so their neighbors often give them many gifts. However, sometimes Zack plays many naughty pranks on other kids, which causes a lot of trouble for his mother.

Answer

Exercise 1:

1. Honesty is the best policy.

2. There is no possibility for you to reach home by six in the evening.

3. This place has a really pleasant ambiance.

4. Pride goes before a fall.

5. Brevity is the soul of wit.

6. That man is testing my patience.

7. Have you read about the theory of evolution?

8. Truthfulness is always appreciated.

9. Gluttony is a sin.

10. What do you think about his idea?

Exercise 2:

1. He is a man of strength.

2. The people in this part of the country live in poverty.

3. Cruelty to animals is a punishable offense.

4. He is on a pilgrimage to Mecca.

5. I have great pleasure to welcome you.

6. Childhood is the best period of your life.

7. Wastage should always be avoided.

8. As a parent my children’s safety is of utmost importance to me.

9. As the sun went below the horizon darkness enveloped the planet.

10. There is no end to his wickedness.

11. Slavery does not taste freedom.

12. Honesty never goes with reward.

13. Who does not love honesty?

14. My friend did not accept my invitation.

15. Nowadays, the internet is a storehouse of knowledge.

16. Cleanliness is said to be godliness.

17. His employees were awarded for their bravery.

Exercise 3:

1. Goodness, not evil

2. Truth, not falsehood

3. Beauty, not ugliness

4. Kindness, not cruelty

5. Success, not the failure

6. Wisdom, not foolishness

7. Happiness, not sorrow

8. Strength, not weakness

Exercise 4:

1. Real → Reality

2. Hard → Hardness

3. Vacant → Vacancy

4. Add → Addition

5. Obedient → Obedience

6. High → Height

7. Real → Reality

8. Move → Movement

9. Stable → Stability

10. Pay → Payment

Exercise 5:

1. conditions

2. benefits

3. opportunities

4. lessons

5. deforestation

6. childhood

7. policies

8. improvements

Exercise 6:

Abstract nouns

Specific nouns

relationship, talent, intelligence, task, trouble, prank

village, boys, mother, house, hill, neighbor, gifts

The above article has helped you understand what abstract nouns are in English. We hope that with the knowledge we have just shared, you will take the time to review various types of lessons to achieve high results in learning.

Wishing you all the best in your studies!

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