“Electric” vs. “Electrical”: Learn The Difference! (15+ Examples)

While the words “electric” and “electrical” are very similar in their base forms, it’s important to understand the major differences between them. In this article, we’ll look at when you can use each one and give you some helpful examples to practice the difference.

What Is The Difference Between “Electric” And “Electrical”?

“Electric” should be used when talking about things that function on electricity. It can also be used metaphorically to talk about things that are exciting and full of energy. “Electrical” should be used when generally talking about things that concern electricity or for things that process it.

What Is The Difference Between "Electric" And "Electrical"?

According to The Cambridge Dictionary, “electric” means “using electricity for power” or “very exciting and producing strong feelings” in the metaphorical sense.

According to The Cambridge Dictionary, “electrical” means “relating to electricity” and is seen as the more general of the two words.

Electric – Example Usage

We thought it would be wise to go through some examples of when each variation can be used. We’ll start with “electric.”

“Electric” can be used both literally and figuratively. You can use it literally to talk about using electricity for power (usually talking about machines that need electricity). You can use it figuratively to talk about a lively or energetic atmosphere.

Let’s start with the literal meaning:

  1. I need to buy a new electric iron.
  2. This oven is electric and runs whenever I need it to.
  3. I play the electric guitar every weekend in my band!
  4. You’ll find our range of electric motors over there.
  5. I just got an electric shock from touching that!

Generally, we talk about objects and machines when using the literal meaning. It is either in the noun form, like “electric iron,” or the noun form, like “this oven is electric.”

And you can see it figuratively in the following ways:

  1. The crowd was electric tonight!
  2. Honestly, this was a great party! It was so electric!
  3. We were electric out there! I want to do it all again!
  4. This was an electric event! When can we come back?
  5. I’ve never seen something so powerful and electric! The crowd was on fire.

Figuratively, we use “electric” to talk about something that we find exciting, entertaining, or energetic in some way. Usually, this refers to a large crowd or gathering that we were involved in.

You may also hear someone refer to someone else as “electric,” meaning that the person they’re talking about is an exciting person to get to know.

Electrical – Example Usage

Now let’s go over when “electrical” might be the more popular choice. We typically don’t use “electrical” to talk about machines like we would do with “electric,” but the words are somewhat interchangeable in that sense.

“Electrical” is the more general of the two words. It’s used to talk about something that refers to electricity, though electricity doesn’t run through whatever that thing is.

Let’s go over some examples to help you understand what we mean when we say that.

  1. I work as an electrical engineer every week.
  2. We need to find where the electrical outlets are.
  3. This is an electrical plant, so please be careful what you touch.
  4. Where are the electrical components I asked for?
  5. I’ve come across multiple electrical faults here, and I need them fixed ASAP.

As you can see, “electrical” is used more when we’re referring to electricity. Electricity doesn’t have to directly run through whatever we’re talking about, though it’s usually the main component of whatever that object or thing is.

To help demonstrate this, the example with “electrical engineer” is a great one. An “electrical engineer” is a person who works with electricity, but obviously, they don’t run on electricity. If they were an “electric engineer,” it would imply that they are a robot operating on electricity.

How Does “Electric” And “Electrical” Differ From “Electronic?

Generally, when we’re talking about either “electric” or “electrical,” we need electricity to be present. However, there’s another word that some people believe to be similar, which is “electronic.” Does the same meaning apply?

“Electronic” means that something is made up of a series of microchips and circuitry to send electric currents around it to operate. There is generally much less need to use electricity in objects that are electronic and they do not need to be plugged in.

Not needing to plug electronic devices into the mains to get them to work is a big part of what sets them out from “electric devices.”

Electronic – Example Usage

To help you understand what the true differences are between “electronic” things (mostly devices) and “electric” or “electrical” things, we thought we’d include a couple more examples for you.

Remember, “electronic” means that something is made of small circuits that send electric currents around to operate. Generally, they don’t need to be plugged in until they need charging, though some have other methods of operation (like solar power).

  1. I need a new electronic calculator for school this year.
  2. Have you listened to this electronic music?
  3. We have plenty of electronic devices for sale.
  4. Have you got an electronic gaming device?
  5. We have a section dedicated to all the electronics with their circuits.

As you can see from these examples, we’re always talking about things that have circuits in them and operate in that way. Electric currents are present, but it isn’t a main focus of the device like you’d find with electric objects.

You may also hear “electronic music” being used. It’s a genre of music that uses electronic beats (synthesized beats) to make sounds.

Quiz: Electric Vs. Electrical

Let’s see if you understand the difference between the two words with a quiz. We’ll include the answers at the end for you to compare against.

  1. I have an (A. electric / B. electrical) engineering degree.
  2. Where can I find a good (A. electric / B. electrical) iron?
  3. Is this the only (A. electric / B. electrical) oven in the store?
  4. We need to turn off the (A. electric / B. electrical) outlets.
  5. Where are the other (A. electric / B. electrical) components?

Quiz Answers

  1. B
  2. A
  3. A
  4. B
  5. B