Economical Than Most – Adjectives With or Without Ending in –al

Something that many people find difficult, even yours truly at times. When is an event historic and when historical? Is a person whose head blows up when he nibbles some peanuts allergic or allergical?

Read and find out.

Most adjectives are with –al at the end, and don’t end in –ic. When you see a word ending in –ic, it’s usually a noun*. But not always. That’s why we need to look at some of these words more closely. I’ll jot down (= write) the meaning and you can read an example.

*What are nouns? Have a look here.

Historic and historical

Historic means important in history.

The first man in space was a historic event.

Historical means something that happened in the past.

England is full of historical buildings, some over 1,000 years old.


Allergical doesn’t exist.

Barry is an allergic. When he eats nuts he gets an allergic reaction. His head blows up to the size of a watermelon.

Economic and economical

Economic means something connected to the economy.

Economical means that it gives good value for its money.

So if you have a car that doesn’t use much petrol, your car is economical.

If a country isn’t doing very well with inflation, unemployment, banks going bankrupt and awful things like that, there’s an economic crisis.

Chronological and chronologic

According to the dictionary, these two words mean the same! That’s one headache less.

What does this word mean: in order of time.

So if someone asks you to tell your story in chronologic order, you start with the thing that happened first, and you end your story with the thing that happened last.

Tropic or tropical

You will find tropic usually used in the plural (so: tropics), because it means the tropic region in the world. And there are two of them, because there is a tropic on either side of the Equator (yes, this is strange). So anyhow, you will hear people talk about the tropics when they mean those areas in the world where it is hot and there is a jungle. If people ask whether you’ve been to the tropics, they mean those areas in South America or the middle of Africa, for instance.

Tropical means like in the tropics, so very hot and humid (= moist).

If you’re in Athens and it’s 45 degrees in the shade, the weather is tropical. But not tropic.

Symmetric or symmetrical

The dictionary says these two are the same. Yes! But you’ll hear symmetrical more often.

Symmetrical means being able to split into two halves that mirror each other, or are the same.

The opposite of symmetrical is asymmetric or asymmetrical. “A” means “not,” so asymmetrical means not the same when you split a thing into two halves. People can have an asymmetric face. The most famous example of this is Adolf Eichmann, if that name means anything to you.

Have a look at the asymmetrical face of Elvis Presley when he was a child (found this photo on a blog):

Elvis at 8

Theoretic or theoretical

They’re also the same, but theoretic or theoretics can also be a noun.

This word means concerned with theory, not practical.

With theoretics as a noun we mean the learning part of a subject that teaches about theory, and not about how to do or apply things.

Last one:

Magic or magical

Magic is the noun for a way to do things in a way that are supernatural.

Magic can also be an adjective, in which case it means related to or done by magic.

Magical means of magic or like magic. If you see or hear a wonderful theatre performance, you could say it was magical.

Harry Potter is the story of a boy with magic/magical powers. He uses magic to achieve his aims.


Now you’re ready to take the Quiz:
Use one of the words above. In some cases, you can use both the word with –ic and with –al.

1 This picture is completely ____________. There are two trees on the right side and two trees on the left.

2 If you’re __________ to cats and they make you sneeze, I can put Mimi in the bedroom during your visit.

3 If you want to fly to London, it’s usually more __________ to fly in the autumn when prices are low.

4 The flashbacks to earlier times make the movie hard to follow. It would be easier if the events were told in ___________ order.

5 The climate on the island is defined by ___________ temperatures all year round, so you needn’t pack a coat.

6 It’s a ____________ night: all the stars are out.

7 The tutor said that before we learn programming, we will first learn a little bit of ____________ about logic.

8 Will Barack Obama’s speeches be remembered as _____________ milestones or just elegant rhetoric?

You will find the answers when you scroll down.









1 symmetric/symmetrical

2 allergic

3 economical

4 chronologic/chronological

5 tropical

6 magical

7 theoretics

8 historic

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