Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Electric, Electrical or Electronic?

Chiew's CLIL EFL ESL ELL TEFT Games Activities: Confusing WordsWhy do we say an electric shaver but an electrical engineer?

Philips Norelco 7310XL Men's Shaving SystemAlthough most native speakers use electric, electrical and electronic correctly most of the time, chances are that they will find it hard to tell you why! So, it's hardly surprising that non-native speakers sometimes make mistakes on these.

Chiew's CLIL EFL ESL ELL TEFT Games Activities: Confusing Words
Sunbeam Microplush Throw Camelot Cuddler Electric Heated Warming Heating Blanket, Ivy GreenDean EVO XM Solid Body Electric Guitar, Mahogany Finish

Electric refers to things that use electricity in order to make them work. Examples are an electric guitar, an electric blanket, an electric iron. The IEEE Standard Dictionary of Electrical and Electronics Terms defines electric as "containing, producing, arising from, actuated by or carrying electricity."

Electrical refers to things that are powered by electricity, especially when used with general nouns, for example, electrical equipment or electrical appliance. An electric iron is an electrical appliance.

Panasonic NI-S300TR 1200-Watt Steam Iron with Curved Titanium-Coated Soleplate, White/GreenWhen used in technical contexts to refer to the manufacture or use of electricity, we also use electrical: an electrical engineer, complex electrical wiring.

Electrical is defined as  "relating to, pertaining to, or associated with electricity but not having its properties."

So, the wires may carry electricity, but they themselves are not electrical.

Electronics as a plural noun suggests devices and equipment that use computer chips, transistors or other similar small parts:  James works in a shop selling electronics. As an uncountable noun or an adjective, it refers to the science and technology that uses or produces electronic equipment: He's been in the electronics industry for fifteen years. We have just installed an electronic surveillance system. He's always surrounded by electronic gadgets.

The E we see so much of these days, such as e-mail, E-world, E-books, etc, stands for electronic.

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