Concrete nouns refer to material objects which we can see or touch.

Abstract nouns refer to things which are not material objects, such as ideas, feelings and situations.


The infinitive without to often emphasises the whole action or event which someone hears or sees.


According to the Cambridge Dictionary, “action” and “event” can be seen, which means, it seems, it classifies them as concrete nouns. But according to our common sense, they are abstract nouns and they can’t be seen. What’s wrong with the dictionary?

  • I think this question is more philosophy or semantics than learning English.
    – stangdon
    Jan 7, 2022 at 13:36

1 Answer 1


Abstract and Concrete are not grammatical classifications of nouns. They are semantic classifications.

Another example of a semantic classification is "Animal", and "non-animal" nouns. "Cat" is an animal noun. "Tree" and "rock" are non-animal. But with any semantic classification, there are likely to be grey areas and ambiguous senses. Is it an animal word to say "I ate lamb"?

And so it is with abstract and concrete nouns. Some words are clearly abstract like "happiness", some are concrete like "rock" and there are some that inhabit a semantic middle ground.

Can you "see" an action, or can you see the effects and consequences of the action? When we say "I saw him playing tennis" did we see "playing tennis". When we see someone smiling, do we not "see happiness"? This is a matter for philosophers and semiologists; it's just not relevant to learning English.

Fortunately, as abstract and concrete are not grammatical categories in English, you don't need to classify each noun as one or the other.

  • But it’s a fact that we can’t see action or event even though it’s philosophical. Why do some dictionaries say the wrong definition?
    – user09827
    Jan 7, 2022 at 10:50
  • I don't think it is a wrong definition, it might be a simplified definition. Fortunately it has no effect on learning English, because "abstract/concrete" are not classifications of nouns in English grammar.
    – James K
    Oct 10, 2022 at 19:32

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