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I have read about the difference between "special" and "especial" and from what I understand they are basically the same. However I've come across a sentence which, in my opinion, would sound much better with "special". Is the following sentence correct and if yes why does it sound so poor?

No especial skill is required to use the tool

  • "In American English the adjective special is overwhelmingly more common than especial in all senses." - dictionary.reference.com/browse/special – mmyers Jul 11 '13 at 4:32
  • However I would not mind You need a lot of skills, especially with this tool – mplungjan Jul 11 '13 at 7:56
  • Especially since 'especially' is not an adjective. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 11 '13 at 8:18
  • Rather than concentrate upon the subtle difference between special and especial I would suggest that the incorrect spelling of "read" is much more likely to attract the reader's attention. – user47586 Jul 11 '13 at 9:19
  • and the use of bad as an adverb. – TrevorD Jul 11 '13 at 13:40
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It reads badly because of the two vowel sounds together ("No es-"); in the OED's citations for especial, all but one (from 1640) precede the word with a consonant sound.

However, there is a more subtle reason.

Especial is archaic. Archaisms have a function in English, but that function is to draw attention to themselves.

With especial, one might write either of

  • A special skill is required
  • An especial skill is required

but using especial calls attention to it. It must be a really special skill.

When you're saying that no special skill is required, why use a word like especial, with its "really special" sense? It's pointless drawing attention to the speciality of the skill when it's not required.

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I agree with Andrew Leach's answer about why the sentence sounds bad, but I think "special" does not capture the essence of what is being said.

If you look at the first set of definitions for "especial" here, you can see two definitions - the first corresponding to "special", the second being:

"of a particular kind, or peculiar to a particular one; particular: your especial case."

I think that from the context, it is the second meaning that is intended; an alternative phrasing that captures the intended meaning might therefore be:

No particular skill is required to use the tool

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