There are concrete (like tree, dog) and abstract concepts (like war, love etc.). I see that concept is expressed as a noun, but what about other parts of speech (verbs, adjectives, etc.)? Are they abstract concept or they became a concept when are changed to noun ?


  • know/knowing
  • black/blackness

Are these 4 words above concepts or only those which are noun ?

1 Answer 1


Abstract vs concrete or figurative vs literal is a function of a word and its context, not of a dictionary entry lemma, a surface form or string literal like tree or dog.

For example, if we point to a tree in front of us and say "This tree grows all over the world", we do not literally mean this concrete tree.

There are also many tree concepts in mathematics and computer science, as well as books and other works by the name.

Conversely, we can say "His love smashed his car in an act of revenge" and then love is rather concrete.

So if we cannot without context say that a noun like tree is concrete or abstract, we cannot without context say that a verb or adjective like to know or black is concrete or abstract.

  • I think that in case of verbs (used to name actions), and adjectives (used to name quality) they can't be concrete independently of context - this is not a thing/entity. This is not about what I was asking, I wanted to know if surface form has matter, seems not. So are all verbs, adjectives, noun and other parts of speech a concepts or a concept can be only a noun ?
    – Adrian
    Commented Sep 5, 2018 at 11:20
  • Yes, can be concrete is a useful question. With the example black, we can nominalise it and then use it as a noun, including as a concrete noun. Commented Sep 5, 2018 at 11:37
  • What about words which express position, like: in, on, above they are not concepts right ? They even can't be changed to noun. Is that true ?
    – Adrian
    Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 3:31
  • That's a bit different, that's function words vs content words. It's not true that they can never be changed to an adjective or noun. See the above, or I found an in. Again, these things are not tied to the exact string literal, which can be used in various, often evolving, ways. Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 16:25
  • 1
    I created separate question for this linguistics.stackexchange.com/questions/29121/…
    – Adrian
    Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 5:50

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