BBC Learning English Ask about English 9th February 2010 economic / economical

A question from Anna Bui in Vietnam: What is the difference between economic and economical when they are both adjectives?

Amy Lightfoot answers: Hello Anna, thanks for your question – I’m sure other students have wondered about this as well. In fact, I’ve often heard people who have English as their first language make mistakes with these two adjectives. You’re absolutely right when you say that these are both

adjectives and they do have some similarity in their meaning, but they are different.

Economic is used to describe anything which has a relationship with the economy (money and trade) of a place or the finances that someone or a group of people have. Common uses include:

economic growth economic development economic reform

Economic can also refer (and this is where it might get confusing) to the profitability or successful of a business. For example:

Unless we start making money, it will not be economic to keep this supermarket branch open.

Similarly (but slightly differently!), economical means using money or resources in a way which minimises any waste of money or any other resource. Have a look at these examples:

It’s important to be economical with our oil reserves – they may soon run out.

Ask about English

© British Broadcasting Corporation 2010 Page 1 of 2

which means only saying what needs to be said and not revealing all the details. even though they might be important. Afghanistan and Bhutan. Try to be economical with the fabric when you cut out the shapes – we haven’t got any more. © British Broadcasting Corporation 2010 Page 2 of 2 .It can be very economical to rent out an empty room in your house – that way you will be able to share some of your costs. She now has a Trinity CertTESOL. ___________________________________________________________________________ Amy Lightfoot started out doing a degree in psychology in 1995 and quickly became interested in the processes involved in learning languages. An interesting idiom is being economical with the truth. DELTA and MA in English Language Teaching. So while economic describes anything economy-related or the success of a business. England. Ask about English bbclearningenglish. For example: Driving to work alone is uneconomical if you have a colleague who lives nearby. Economical is probably more commonly used in its opposite form: uneconomical. She is currently working as a freelance materials writer and language trainer in Somerset. Portugal. It’s not quite as bad as lying! Hopefully this will shed some light on this pair of words for you – try and use one or both of them in a conversation over the next couple of days to really cement your knowledge. She has taught English and worked on teacher training projects in the UK. economical refers to avoiding waste.

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