I'm having trouble differentiating between abstract and concrete nouns. I understand the basic distinction between the two. However, there are some that confuse me. For example, is weather an abstract noun? My reasoning is that you can sense the changes in weather, but not really weather itself? or maybe you can... and what about money? I would think it is concrete. And currency? that has to be abstract right?

I'd love it if anybody could help. Thanks.
New Member01
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Don't feel that you're alone in having this difficulty. The difference between abstract and concrete nouns is not always easy to determine. The reason is that the distinction is over-simplified, and that it is made to seem that it is a property of the nouns themselves, whereas, in reality, it is a property of the entities in the real world that the nouns refer to.

Many linguists classify nouns into three types: first-order, second-order, and third-order nouns. Only the first-order nouns are called "concrete" in the simpler, traditional system of concrete and abstract. The second- and third-order nouns are called "abstract".

First-order nouns designate individual entities that exist in three-dimensional space that are publicly observable: people, animals, physical objects. Second-order nouns designate events and processes that exist in time: weather, storm, sunset. Third-order nouns designate entities that are not observable. They are not located either in space or time: faith, happiness, belief.

Note that the classification can change depending on how the noun is used, that is, depending on what it refers to in the real world. When money refers to the physical coins and bills, it is a first-order noun ("concrete"); when it refers to the idea of financial wealth, it is a third-order noun ("abstract").

There's some money on the table. (concrete)
There's a lot of money in his bank account.
(abstract)

In short, any noun that refers to an observable physical entity is "concrete"; everything else is "abstract". Thus, weather is considered an abstract noun.

CJ
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Some of the ideas in this post are a summary of material from Semantics by John Lyons (Section 11.3).
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Hi Nickel

From the grammatical point of view it is absolutely of no consequence whether a noun is abstract or concrete. You might just as well stop thinking about that. I get the impression from your post that you know enough about that. What you should know is

1. whether you can/must use the indefinite article (a/an) with a noun
2. whether a noun can be used in the plural

You'll have to learn that individually for each word. Money, for example is very rarely used in the plural and extremely rarely do we put a before it. Whether money is abstract or concrete doesn't really matter.

Cheers
CB
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Thank you, CalifJim and CB.

How does understanding of the distinction among three types -- first-order, second-order, and third-order noun -- play out in one's effort write better English? I think CB said to the effect that it makes no, if not extremely little difference, in terms of grammar or how well you write.

The most pragmatic part of all this to understand when to put an indefinite or definite articles, and that's where my next question will come from, if you are kind enough to lend a helping hand.

I see cases where a countable noun is used in sentencces without any English articles because, as it seems to me, it is used in terms of how it is represented conceptually, rather than how it is categorized grammartically -- that is how it appears in dictionaries. Can you help me to understand the basis for this and the level of prevalence? Some good examples, please.
Contributing Member1,969
BelieverI see cases where a countable noun is used in sentencces without any English articles because, as it seems to me, it is used in terms of how it is represented conceptually, rather than how it is categorized grammartically -- that is how it appears in dictionaries. Can you help me to understand the basis for this and the level of prevalence? Some good examples, please.
Hi Believer

You have a verytheoritical approach to language, if you don't mind my/me saying so. Emotion: smile (Absolutely no offence/offense meant.)

I'll let Jim tackle the first order etc. issue because I know nothing about it. I don't think there is a common "basis" for all the cases where a countable noun is used without a in the singular. It has taken the usage to evolve hundreds of years and there are countless different cases. In many, perhaps most cases it is impossible to say why an article is used or why it isn't used.

Here's an example:
I didn't have much chance to speak German there.

I don't know why chance is used the way it is in the sentence. It might be a good idea for you to concentrate more on learning actual English words and expressions and usage in general and less on trying to discover a magic formula that provides an explanation for every imaginable grammatical phenomenon. There is no such formula.

Look on the bright side: an English noun can have a maximum of four different forms: boy, boy's, boys and boys'. In addition to these, you may place a or the before the noun. It really couldn't be much simpler even if English were an artificial language. There are languages in which a noun has more than a hundred forms.

I hope you don't find my comments disheartening; they are certainly not meant to be that way.

Cheers
CB
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How does understanding of the distinction among three types -- first-order, second-order, and third-order noun -- play out in one's effort write better English?
It doesn't play out in that way. It's only a theoretical distinction sometimes mentioned in grammar courses.
The most pragmatic part of all this to understand when to put an indefinite or definite articles, ...
Actually, I don't think you'll find any pragmatic conclusions of that kind to draw from either the two-way or the three-way division of nouns, as all of these types can be countable or non-countable.

CJ
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Anonymous:
abstravt nouns are nouns that you can't use any of your senses to find an example would be "bravery" a concrete noun is something like the word "puppy".
Anonymous:
what are the examples of abstract related to concrete ?
example:
love is related to heart

love is abstract and heart is concrete

what are some examples of abstract related to concrete ?

pls. help me
Anonymous:
CJ:

Excellent explanation of principle and convincing examples.

I have come here from the Information Technology / Software specialization where these classifications and principles are applied "without sufficient understanding". As a result they lose the basis for their use and assume misleading and conflicting meanings.

I am recommending that scholars like John Lyons and you should be consulted for proper learning.
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