Nouns and Their Adjectives

There are many adjectives (describing words) that are formed from nouns using the suffixes –ic or –ical. Sometimes a noun can be transformed into both adjectives.

Examples:
Economy, economic, economical
History, historic, historical
Class, classic, classical

How do you know which of the two adjectives to use?
According to Peter’s Pragmatic Guide to Idiomatic English: http://www.unil.ch/webdav/site/angl/shared/pdf/Resources/PPG14thed.pdf

“Consider the first (–ic) as the ‘true’ or ‘direct’ form, and the second
(–ical) as only indirectly related to the concept in question.”

Example:
It was Obama’s economic policy that dictated her choice of an economical car.

“Here economic relates to money; economical relates first of all to petrol consumption,and thus only indirectly to economics,” Peter explains.

More Examples:
A classic is something that is taught or cited in class, such as classic physics, whereas classical literature, art and music are from a previous era.

A historic event is one that made history. A historical novel is one with a setting that occurred in the past.

Sometimes a noun ends with –ic, so the related adjective ends with –ical.

Examples:
Logic, logical
Statistic, statistical
Tactic, tactical
Skeptic, skeptical (Brit-speak: sceptic, sceptical)

Now, geoscientists have a bad habit of turning a perfectly good adjective that ends in –ic into a noun.

Bad Examples:
We need to reprocess the seismic.
The logs from the washed out zones made it impossible to obtain a synthetic.

Corrected Examples:
We need to reprocess the seismic data.
The logs from the washed out zones made it impossible to obtain a synthetic seismogram.

If in doubt, you can always ask me. I enjoy getting questions from the Peanut Gallery.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: