Could you explain me the difference between "electric" and "electrical " ?

 Is there words take the two words ?

Original Post
Ahmed55 posted:

Could you explain me the difference between "electric" and "electrical " ?

Hi, Ahmed55,

We don't use the double object construction with "explain." The correct way to formulate the question is: "Could you explain to me the difference between 'electric' and 'electrical'?"

That's an interesting question. I may have more to add after I've thought about it more, but the basic difference is that "electrical" always has to do with electricity, but "electric" is more flexible in application.

We often use "electric" metaphorically. The poet Walt Whitman wrote a famous poem that begins: "I sing the body electric." And sometimes we speak of "electric connections" between people. We don't mean that electricity is literally involved.

Again, I might have more to add later.

Ahmed55 posted:

 Is there words take the two words ?

I don't know what you are trying to say.

Thanks for telling me my mistakes .. I wonder if there any words which take  the two words with  differences in meaning

Here is an old thread with similar pairs of adjectives, ending in "-ic" and "-ical."

As David says, "electrical" is always related to electricity. Sometimes it means "containing electricity" (in which case both "electric" and "electrical" can be used, as in electric/electrical wires), and other times it only means "related to electricity," in which case  "electrical" tends to be used, as in electrical engineer.

Personally, I don't see much difference between "electric wire" and "electrical wire." Some native speakers claim that an electric wire is a wire that conducts electricity, while an electrical wire is a wire designed to conduct electricity.

Last edited by Gustavo, Contributor

Thanks very much for your additions to this thread, Gustavo, especially for the link to that old thread, which is classic

The distinction between -ic and -ical adjectives came up once in a thread I started a long time ago about "grammatical errors," which sometimes strikes people, as it once struck me, as a paradoxical collocation, insofar as "grammatical errors" refers to things that are ungrammatical.

Interestingly, the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) does have the adjective "grammatic" listed as a word; however, it is not used by many. Indeed, I have never seen anyone use it. Rather than speak of "grammatic errors," I'd much rather use "grammar" as an attributive noun and speak of "grammar errors."

The real way out, though, is to realize a point related to what you pointed about about "electrical." Just as "electrical" commonly means "related to electricity," "grammatical" commonly means "related to grammar." Grammatical errors are errors related to grammar, not errors that conform to the rules of grammar!

Since I fancy myself to be "on a role" here (ha ha), I'll mention another amusing thing that just occurred to me. I thought about the fact that an "electrical chair" often refers to a luxury chair that is operated electrically, whereas an "electric chair" commonly refers to an instrument of execution or capital punishment.

An Electrical Chair

electrical chair

The Electric Chair

electric chair


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Last edited by David, Moderator

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