Using Words to Describe Nouns-Mechanic, Mechanical, Electric, Electrical

I had a request to explain the difference in using words like mechanic/mechanical, electric, electrical when using them to modify or describe nouns.


So here goes. We can use nouns to describe other nouns such the noun book to let us know what kind of store it is- book store. Or perhaps a popular one for some of my women friends shoe to let us know what kind of store- shoe store.

One thing to remember is if we use a noun for a person like doctor to describe another noun than we would use the possessive form with ‘s or s’- example Doctor’s office.

Other examples- Matt’s blog, Bill’s car.

One note- if traveling in the U.S. you might see something like Mens Room without the apostrophe ‘ but that is more of an issue of sign making than correct grammar.

But if we look at the difference between mechanic/mechanical versus electric/electrical there is subtle difference.

Mechanic refers to a person, so if we want to modify a word like engineer which is a person or engineering which is a subject, we wouldn’t use mechanic. We would use the adjective mechanical to describe a person such as mechanical engineer for a person and mechanical for a thing such as engineering for the field of study or work. We could say Mechanic’s work area meaning that area belonged to the mechanic.

In contrast, electric is an adjective as is electrical so sometimes we can use either such as electric engineer or electrical engineer. Normally we use only electric to refer to a machine or device that runs on electricity- electric toothbrush, electric guitar.

Hope this helps. I plan to respond to questions. If you have any questions you can click on Leave A Comment under the title of this post.

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