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Concrete Adjectives

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Concrete Adjectives

1. Sascha opened the old window and breathed in the lovely, refreshing morning air.

2. Sascha opened the creaky, clouded window and breathed in the crisp, cool morning air.

You might notice that sentence 2 provides a more clear and specific description of the window and air than sentence 1. You can practically hear the window creak open and feel the air on your face. This visualization is possible because sentence 2 makes use of concrete adjectives. Learning to incorporate more concrete adjectives into your writing can help you create clear, understandable, and thought-provoking descriptions.

Concrete Adjectives, Concrete Adjectives Definition, Open Window, StudySmarter

Concrete adjectives such as creaky, clouded, crisp, and cool add dimension to the sentence.

What Is the Definition of a Concrete Adjective?

To define a concrete adjective, you have to know what an adjective is! Here's the definition:

An adjective is a word that adds descriptive information to a noun or noun phrase. It answers questions of which one, what kind, or how many.

As a reminder, here are some examples of adjectives:

  • happy

  • bright

  • incredible

  • toasty

  • well-informed

Concrete Words

You've got the adjective half of concrete adjectives down. Now for the concrete half. What does concrete mean in this context?

Concrete words are words that refer to something tangible, rather than abstract.

Tangible in this sense means something that can be experienced with the five senses: sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. To put it simply, concrete words refer to things that you can see, hear, touch, smell, or taste.

Concrete words can be nouns, adjectives, verbs, and adverbs. Here are some examples:

SenseType of DescriptionConcrete Words
SightVisual Descriptionflower, view, pitch-black, brightly
SoundAuditory Descriptionnoise, scream, melodic, loudly
TouchTactile Descriptionwarmth, strike, smooth, gently
SmellOlfactory Descriptionaroma, waft, olfactory
TasteGustatory Descriptioncupcake, eat, bitter, sweetly

If you're looking at a word and wondering whether it's a concrete word, ask yourself, "does this word refer to something real and tangible?" If it does, it's a concrete word!

Concrete Adjectives

You have the definitions of adjectives and concrete words now. Put these together, and you've got the definition of a concrete adjective!

A concrete adjective is an adjective that adds tangible information to a noun or noun phrase.

Concrete adjectives can modify both concrete nouns and non-concrete nouns. They describe nouns and noun phrases by referencing what can be seen, heard, felt, smelled, and tasted. Here are some examples of concrete adjectives referring to each of the five senses.

Sense Concrete Adjectives
Sighttransparent, cloudy, dark, bright, hazy
Soundquiet, loud, shrieking, deafening, high-pitched
Touchdusty, sharp, sticky, silky, wrinkly
Smellsmelly, sweet-smelling, pungent, fragrant, perfumed
Tasteacidic, chewy, minty, dry, crunchy

These adjectives could describe nouns either literally or figuratively. For example, a sheet of glass can be literally transparent, meaning that you can see through it; a person's speech can also be figuratively transparent, meaning that the person is telling the truth without hiding information. You'll see specific examples of this later!

A List of Concrete Adjectives

The examples above give a general impression of concrete adjectives in their different forms. This longer list shows a greater variety of concrete adjectives.

  • dark

  • fizzy

  • silent

  • liquid

  • rough

  • cheesy

  • cold

  • stinky

  • breakable

  • heavy

  • illuminated

  • salty

  • brilliant

  • crusty

To recognize a concrete adjective: look at an adjective and ask, "Does this adjective connect to something tangible and real?" If it does, it's a concrete adjective!

A concrete adjective doesn't have to refer to the same sense as the noun it modifies. For example, you can describe a noise as "loud," since both noise and loud are concrete words that refer to sound. But you can also describe bright colors as "loud," where colors refers to sight and loud refers to sound. Loud describes noise literally and colors figuratively.

Opposite of a Concrete Adjective

What if an adjective doesn't connect to something tangible and real? The antonym of a concrete adjective is an abstract adjective.

An abstract adjective adds intangible information to a noun or noun phrase.

Concrete vs. Abstract Adjectives

In general, abstract adjectives are less specific than concrete adjectives. They're also usually harder to grasp because they don't connect to tangible objects. Here are some examples of abstract adjectives:

  • good
  • dangerous
  • guilty
  • wrong
  • uncomfortable
  • delicious
  • powerful
  • confusing
  • gross
  • weak

These adjectives refer to concepts that are understandable, but not tangible. They don't connect to something specific that you could see, hear, touch, smell, or taste.

An abstract adjective can modify a concrete noun and vice versa. For example, the concrete adjective hardened can modify the abstract noun emotions. The abstract adjective pleasant can describe the concrete noun music.

Examples of Concrete Adjectives

So, what differences do concrete adjectives make in sentences? Concrete adjectives can make a description more specific and easier to imagine.

In this example, a concrete adjective describes a noun literally.

Abstract adjective: She bit into the delicious apple.

The adjective delicious provides a description for the apple, but it's not very clear. Why is it delicious? Concrete adjectives could describe the apple more thoroughly.

Concrete adjective: She bit into the crisp, juicy apple.

With the concrete adjectives crisp and juicy, the apple seems more real and more tangible. You can clearly imagine the apple when you think of how crisp and juicy it is.

The concrete adjectives give a literal description of the apple. The apple is literally crisp and juicy. Concrete adjectives can also describe something figuratively. Take a look at this example:

Abstract adjective: The room was filled with an awkward silence.

The abstract adjective awkward describes the silence. You probably know exactly what an awkward silence is like, but a concrete adjective could provide a richer description.

Concrete adjective: The room was filled with a deafening silence.

The adjective deafening describes the silence as something that can be heard. The idea of a deafening silence contradicts itself, but it's also thought-provoking. It describes the silence as if it's all that can be heard, and it can't be interrupted. The concrete adjective places the reader in this deafeningly silent room.

Concrete adjectives aren't always better than abstract adjectives, but they are a wonderful tool for description. The next time you write, replace some of your abstract adjectives with synonyms that are more concrete. Make a note of how it changes your descriptions.

What Is the Purpose of Concrete Adjectives in Writing?

You've seen some examples of concrete adjectives in isolated sentences. But what purpose do concrete adjectives serve in a larger context? This example, from the poem "Ode to a Nightingale" by John Keats (1819), is full of concrete adjectives.

Concrete Adjectives, Singing Nightingales, StudySmarterNightingales singing odes

O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been

Cool'd a long age in the deep-delved earth,

Tasting of Flora and the country green,

Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!

O for a beaker full of the warm South,

Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,

With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,

And purple-stained mouth;

That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,

And with thee fade away into the forest dim." (Lines 11–20)

This second stanza of the poem focuses on the theme of longing for nature. How do the concrete adjectives help to carry this theme? Look at these concrete adjectives: green, sunburnt, warm, blushful, beaded, purple-stained, and dim. These adjectives bring out images of the outdoors, nature, and a warm, lush forest. The use of these concrete adjectives places the reader in the forest, seeing and feeling every element.

Notice how some concrete adjectives describe nouns literally: green country, purple-stained mouth, dim forest, and beaded bubbles. These allow the reader to clearly visualize the environment. Others describe nouns figuratively: sunburnt mirth and blushful Hippocrene. These create artistic and thought-provoking descriptions for the reader to consider.

Whether for clear visualizations or poetic comparisons, concrete adjectives can be a useful addition to your description tool belt. Keep an eye out for concrete adjectives in the next passage you read, and try to figure out what the author meant to communicate with them.

Concrete Adjectives - Key Takeaways

  • A concrete adjective is an adjective that adds tangible information to a noun or noun phrase.
  • Concrete adjectives describe nouns and noun phrases by referencing what can be seen, heard, felt, smelled, and tasted.
  • The antonym of a concrete adjective is an abstract adjective. An abstract adjective adds intangible information to a noun or noun phrase.
  • Concrete adjectives can modify both concrete nouns and non-concrete nouns.
  • Concrete adjectives can describe nouns and noun phrases literally or figuratively.

References

  1. John Keats, "Ode to a Nightingale," 1819.

Frequently Asked Questions about Concrete Adjectives

Concrete adjectives describe nouns and noun phrases by referencing what can be seen, heard, felt, smelled, and tasted. This contributes to a clear and rich description.

A concrete adjective is an adjective that adds tangible information to a noun or noun phrase. Concrete adjectives describe nouns and noun phrases as something that can be seen, heard, felt, smelled, or tasted.

Here are some examples of concrete adjectives:


  • fizzy
  • dark
  • silent
  • liquid
  • rough
  • cheesy
  • cold
  • stinky
  • breakable

Concrete adjectives are different from concrete nouns. Concrete adjectives can modify both concrete nouns and non-concrete nouns. For example:


  • A deafening silence
  • A palpable tension

A concrete adjective is an adjective that adds tangible information to a noun or noun phrase, while an abstract adjective adds intangible information to a noun or noun phrase. In general, abstract adjectives are less specific than concrete adjectives. 

Final Concrete Adjectives Quiz

Question

What is the definition of an adjective?

Show answer

Answer

An adjective is a word that adds descriptive information to a noun or noun phrase. It answers questions of which one, what kind, or how many.

Show question

Question

How does a concrete adjective describe a noun/noun phrase?

Show answer

Answer

A concrete adjective adds tangible information to a noun or noun phrase.

Show question

Question

What are concrete words?

Show answer

Answer

Concrete words are words that refer to something tangible, rather than abstract.

Show question

Question

Joyful


Is this adjective concrete or abstract?

Show answer

Answer

Abstract

Show question

Question

Pliable


Is this adjective concrete or abstract?

​​​


Show answer

Answer

Concrete

Show question

Question

Minty


Is this adjective concrete or abstract?

Show answer

Answer

Concrete

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Question

Honorable


Is this adjective concrete or abstract?


Show answer

Answer

Abstract

Show question

Question

Jealous


Is this adjective concrete or abstract?

Show answer

Answer

Abstract

Show question

Question

Sharp


Is this adjective concrete or abstract?

​​​


Show answer

Answer

Concrete

Show question

Question

What is the opposite of a concrete adjective?

Show answer

Answer

The opposite of a concrete adjective is an abstract adjective. An abstract adjective adds intangible information to a noun or noun phrase.

Show question

Question

What is the purpose of concrete adjectives in writing?

Show answer

Answer

Concrete adjectives describe nouns and noun phrases by referencing what can be seen, heard, felt, smelled, and tasted. This contributes to a clear and rich description.

Show question

Question

I bit straight into the cold, melting ice cream.


Do cold and melting describe ice cream literally or figuratively?

Show answer

Answer

Literally

Show question

Question

The piano accompanied a smooth, velvety singing voice.


Do smooth and velvety describe singing voice literally or figuratively?

Show answer

Answer

Figuratively

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Question

The piercing sound of the siren nearly gave me a heart attack.


Does piercing describe sound literally or figuratively?

Show answer

Answer

Figuratively

Show question

Question

Those are the most colorful curtains I've ever seen.


Does colorful describe curtains literally or figuratively?

Show answer

Answer

Literally

Show question

Question

You have a very colorful imagination.

Does colorful describe imagination literally or figuratively?

Show answer

Answer

Figuratively

Show question

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