Sunday, October 21, 2012

Forming abstract nouns using suffixes

Two quizzes based on a 'bank' of more than 200 abstract nouns. View by base word type or go for a random selection.

Traditional grammar divides nouns into:
  • Proper nouns - the names of people, organisations, products and places etc. They always begin with a capital letter
    Peter Davidson, the United Nations, Blogger, Poland etc
  • Common nouns - everything else
    butter, dogs, love, travel etc
We can further divide common nouns into:
  • Concrete nouns - these describe things that can be experienced with at least one of the five senses, you can see them, hear them, smell them, taste them, and/or feel them.
  • Abstract nouns - these describe things that cannot be detected with the senses: things like emotions, ideals and ideas.
Abstract nouns can be both countable and uncountable, but most of the ones in this post are uncountable. Many abstract nouns are formed from other words - adjectives, verbs and nouns - usually by adding a suffix to them, and that's what we'll be looking at here.
Occasionally two different abstract nouns can be made from the same base word. This is the case with:
  • abstain > abstinence, abstention
  • admit > admission, admittance
  • deceive > deception, deceit
  • live > life, livelihood
  • obey > obedience, obeyance
  • proceed > process, procedure
  • progress > progress, progression
In these cases I've only listed the first.
This post has three sections:
  1. Matching game
  2. Gapfill exercise
  3. Reference section
You can choose between different classes of base word, and between the most common abstract nouns, as listed in the Oxford 3000™ (see link below) or all the abstract nouns in my list. In the quizzes, the base words can be shown alphabetically (default) or randomised.

1. Matching game


As well as suffixes, the quiz may include one or more of three categories
  • other - has a different ending to those listed or changes completely
  • stem change - usually involves a consonant change, eg v to f
  • no change - the abstract noun is the same as the base word
Select Randomised

2. Gapfill exercise - enter the correct word

You can adjust the number of columns for easy printing
Options: Randomised Quiz length No of columns
Showing Qs out of

Your exercise will appear here

3. Reference




This website is really a word finder for crosswords, Scrabble® etc, but has some useful lists of the most common words with specified endings:


Baiba said...

Hello, and thanks once again for the post.
I took a look at Oxford 3000 text checker you mentioned here and was surprised to find that they did not recognize "teenager" or "don't" as part of 3000 keywords. How reliable in your opinion is the tool?

Warsaw Will said...

Hi, Baiba. I've never really questioned it. I've tried it just now and it recognises "don't" for me, along with "can't" and "won't", but not "teenager". So then I tried comparing British and American use of "teenager" in Ngram, and British usage seems to be relatively low compared with American usage.


Then I checked the top 3000 words at Merriam-Webster's (American) Learner's Dictionary, and they don't include "teenager" either.

"Teenager" does register in the Macmillan top 7,500, but with a two-star rating (top rating is three stars), and it doesn't figure in the Longman's top 3000 (either written or spoken).

So the Oxford 3000 seems to be more or less in line with other learners' dictionaries top words collections, at least as far as "teenager" is concerned.

Baiba said...

Thanks for the research, Will. Interesting tool Ngram! Obviously, Brits don't favour the word teenager. I wonder what they are using instead...

Warsaw Will said...

I've just found a tool called via Leo's EFL blog at Leoxicon. The tool gives a ranking for any word you enter, and you might be surprised how low 'teenager' comes.

Blahdose said...

I have just started giving tutions and I have one student. This was a huge help because it is interactive as opposed to printing a list and telling him to learn it.

Warsaw Will said...

Glad you've found it useful.