Economic or Economical?

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Here is a new item for the series of posts dedicated to all those English students who cannot believe that sometimes even mother tongue speakers also get it wrong.

This post is about two words that, despite looking very similar have very different meanings. We are going to tell you when each one of them needs to be used, so you can finally impress, and perhaps even correct your mother tongue friends!

The two words are economic and economical.

ECONOMIC: relating to the economy (trade, industry, money) or the science of economics. It can also refer to something designed to give a profit.

Some examples…

The government’s economic policy is very weak.

From renting that house I receive an economic rent: I am able to cover my expenses and earn a bit more.

ECONOMICAL: means ‘careful in the use of resources’, and it is used to refer to something that doesn’t waste money, time or other resources.

He is economical with the use of salt when he cooks.

This car is very economical: it consumes very little petrol.

It is also commonly used in the following expression to indicate that someone is being dishonest (‘careful in the use of the truth’).

I think he is being a little economical with the truth.


So, think about what you want to say. If the meaning is along the lines of ‘careful with the use/consumption of something or with spending’, choose economical, if not choose economic. It could also be worth remembering that normally the word ‘economic’ has something to do with ‘economy’.

We’ll be back soon with more useful tips. Keep studying!

To have something to do with – related to

Tip – a helpful piece of advice


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