ENGLISCH/823: Questions to Mrs Gobbledygook (152) Economic/economical (SB)


152. What is the difference between economic and economical?

Dear Mrs. Gobbledygook

I read your article "ENGLISCH/813: Questions to Mrs Gobbledygook (149) classic/classical (SB)" about the adjectives classic or classical the other day, and I think, I have a very similar problem. I wonder if you could explain the difference between the adjectives economic and economical.

Yours sincerely

Tom G. (from Stuttgart, Germany)


Dear Mr G

The first thing, that has to be said about these words is, that there are two ways of stressing and pronouncing them. You can either say "eco'nomic" and eco'nomical in which case the first "o" is shortened to an "ea" like the "er" in butter. Or you can say e'conomic and e'conomical in which the second syllable is stressed and the "o" too.

Whichever way you pronounce it the word economic means: concerned with the economy of a country, that is the money, trade, industry and the development of wealth of a contry, an area or a society. Here are some examples:

"Why does the country has so many economic problems at the moment? - Why, I think it's the same in most countries. The econimic forecast for next year is much better.

The goverment's economic policy is based on the current economic climate.

And this is mostly translated in your language into:

Now the meaning of the other adjective Economical is spending money or using something in a careful way that avoids waste. If something is economical, it is cheap to run, that is to say, it doesn't need much money to operate it.

Here is another example of every days conversation, introducing the expression economical:

"For the past five years Jane has been driving a big, comfortable car. Big cars cost a lot of money to run, petrol, oil, and insurance. Jane's car has been hurting her pocketbook. But no more. As of today she's through with big cars. She's going to sell her big car and buy herself a nice economical one.

I don't know, why Sally doesn't sell her car.
It's much too small. She should buy a car like
the one Jane's selling: Big, comfortable...", -
"... and completely uneconomical." "What do you
mean?" "Jane's car uses too much petrol. This car
has a small engine, so it doesn't. It's very
economical. Jane should buy a car like this.

If a person is economical, it means, that he or she spends money carefully:

It is usually very economical to buy washing powder in large quantities.

My mother is a very economical person. She always knows where to buy the cheapest goods.

Have you got the idea of it? Hoping I wasn't too economical with my words for you to understand ...


Mrs Gobbledygook

2 January 2009