Archive for January 19, 2011

adjective: practical

A little while ago, I wrote about the adverb “practically”. Today, I would like to write about the adjective form “practical”. You would think that they basically have the same meaning, but they don’t.

The adverb “practically” is usually used to mean “almost”, but the adjective “practical” is usually used when we want to describe a person or a thing as displaying useful thinking. When we describe a person as “practical”, it means they think about how things can be used for a useful purpose. When we describe a thing as being “practical”, it means that it can be used for a useful purpose. For example:

My daughter always carries a Swiss army knife in her bag. She’s so practical!

My husband is very good at thinking of various uses for old pieces of wood. He’s extremely practical in that way.

My mother always gives people very practical gifts like coffeemakers or can openers.

I don’t think I learned a lot of practical things in high school. My sister took home economics, and she learned more practical things like how to cook and sew.

My French teacher taught me how to say a lot of practical questions such as “Where is the bathroom?” and “How much is this?”

We can also use the word “practical” to talk about things that are connected to real life experience rather than theory. For example:

This new software will have a lot of practical applications.

I got a lot of practical experience by working as a waiter in a restaurant. I think I know more about the restaurant business than most people studying about it in school.

It is possible to use “practically” with this meaning but, in my opinion, it’s not so common. For example, it’s possible to say something like, “We must think about this practically.” However, I think most people would say, “We must think about this in a practical way.” To me, using “practical” sounds more natural.

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