Subtle differences in meaning
Some differences in word-choice are very small and subtle. Why do we say that we use an ‘electric oven‘, but power comes from an ‘electrical power station‘? Why do we say that London is in the ‘South’ of England, but it is also correct to say that London is in ‘Southern England’? Here are some other examples and explanations!
Economic / Economical?
This one is quite easy. Economic means ‘related to finance’;
The government’s economic policy is not good enough!
Economical means ‘of good value’;
“Wind turbines are expensive to install, but are very economical in the long-term, as they cost very little to maintain.”
Electric / Electrical / Electronic
This is a little bit more confusing, because the difference is quite subtle.
Electric can be used before a noun to show that the object uses electricity. This is particularly common for objects that a non-electric version exists, like ovens, irons, cars or toothbrushes;
In my house we don’t have a gas cooker. We cook on an electric stove.
Electrical means ‘related to electricity’;
Before the house can be rented, some electrical tests must be done.
Electronic usually refers to smaller devices that use microchips, such as phones, calculators and other hand-held objects. It’s secondary meaning is for virtual things that traditionally existed in the real world, like shops, books, and the most common of all – e-mail.
I prefer to use an electronic dictionary because it isn’t as heavy as a paper dictionary.
Sorry, Sir, we don’t have that book in stock today, but you can buy the e-book from our e-shop.
Be aware that there are some situations in which electric and electrical can both be used. For example;
The electric(al) circuit was damaged, and the lights went out.
North / Northern, South / Southern, East / Eastern, West / Western
The simple form – north – is a noun, adjective and adverb;
As a noun: Resistencia is in the North of Argentina
As an adjective: It is always hot in South Thailand
As an adverb: When I was travelling East, I met a lot of interesting people.
The ‘different’ form – northern – is always an adjective, and is a synonym of north when it is used as an adjective:
It is always hot in Southern Thailand.
NOTE: There are some place names in which you cannot choose which form to use – because they are names! This includes Northern Ireland, North Korea and South America. South Africa is a country, and Southern Africa is a general area in the South of Africa that includes many countries.
Choose the right word to fit in the gap:
- We always stay in cheap hotels to make our holidays more __________ (economic / economical)
- Argentina is in another ________ crisis. (economic / economical)
- This metal has a high _______ resistance. (electric/electrical/electronic)
- My Grandma uses an _________ blanket on her bed in the winter. (electric/electrical/electronic)
- Wikipedia is an __________ encyclopedia.
- These birds always fly ________ during the summer. (north / northern)
- I am from __________ England (South / Southern)
- He has a strong ___________ accent. (South / Southern)
- Namibia is a country in _________ Africa (South / Southern)
- Argentina is a country in _________ America (South / Southern)
- We always stay in cheap hotels to make our holidays more economical
- Argentina is in another economic crisis.
- This metal has a high electrical resistance.
- My Grandma uses an electric blanket on her bed in the winter.
- Wikipedia is an electronic encyclopedia.
- These birds always fly north during the summer.
- I am from South England
- He has a strong southern accent
- Namibia is a country in Southern Africa
- Argentina is a country in South America
Did you have any difficulty understanding these examples? If you have any questions or comments, let us know in the comments section below.