1

Right now I am writing a technical report, where I describe asymptotic(al) curves, expansions etc. My understanding after a bit of web browsing is that asymptotic and asymptotical are near-synonymous but the former is much more common (please correct me if I am wrong), so I will replace all instances of asymptotical by asymptotic.

Is there any general rule for those X vs. X-al situations? I can handle the most common cases (such as "Economic" vs. "economical") because I have seen them enough times, but I have not inferred a general rule, so I am at a loss when presented with an uncommon word (such as "asymptotic").

(I am not a native speaker.)

  • You have to be very careful with some words: historic is different from historical. (Just as is economic from economical.) If you don't know, look up the words in a dictionary. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Aug 12 '19 at 22:18
  • @JasonBassford I agree in principle. However, historic vs historical returns thousands of relevant links in Google, whereas asymptotic vs asymptotical does not. – user357497 Aug 13 '19 at 15:55
  • I'm not talking about Google. I'm talking about looking up the words in a dictionary. Unless Google leads you to an online dictionary, it's a terrible tool in general. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Aug 14 '19 at 4:14
0

There are historical reasons behind the choice of the suffixes -ic - ical as explained here:

-ical

compound adjectival word-forming element, usually interchangeable with -ic but sometimes with specialized sense (such as historic/historical, politic/political), Middle English, from Late Latin -icalis, from Latin -icus + -alis (see -al (1)).

Probably it was needed because the forms in -ic often took on a noun sense (for example physic). Forms in -ical tend to be attested earlier in English than their twins in -ic.

(Etymonline)

  • So... no general rule. Well, that's English I guess. – user357497 Aug 13 '19 at 15:56
-1

I have been thinking about this a lot recently and i have decided that perhaps the general rule is:

a single element is -ic, a battle is historic, a light switch is electric, 2+2=4 is arithmetic, Gandalf is Fantastic, a money saving tip is economic, a piece of logic is well, logic.

A more complex thing made of many -ic elements is -ical. a War is historical, the wiring in a whole house is electrical, a system made up of many pieces of arithmetic is arithmetical, Lord of the Rings is Fantastical, living your life following money saving tips is economical, and carrying out a task using logic is logical.

  • Welcome to EL&U. Your reasoning does not hold up to scrutiny, but if you can identify a reputable reference that supports it, please edit the answer to include it. I strongly encurage you to take the site tour and review the help center for additional guidance. – choster Aug 22 '19 at 12:50

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.