If you are learning English, you may sometimes wonder when to use historic and when to use historical.
Indeed, I can often see my students get confused and mix them up.
Do you feel the same? Don’t worry, it is perfectly understandable, especially since there may be no difference at all in your native language.
So, what is the difference between historic and historical?
Both are adjectives, which means they are used together with a noun. Basically they mean about the same but they are used in slightly different ways.
Historic is to used to say something is important, significant in history – even potentially so. It is often used with places or events that made history:
- a historic site
- a historic occasion
- a historic moment
Historical is used to show a connection with the study of history or to say something actually happened or existed in the past.
- a historical novel
- a historical background
- historical facts
Careful! You may sometimes feel that you can use both, but remember the meaning is different:
- a historic event → an event that is important
- a historical event → an event that happened in the past (but not necessarily an important or significant one. Here, the focus is not on the significance of the event)
- a historic decision → a decision that marked history
- a historical decision → a decision that was made in the past (not necessarily an important one. Here, the focus is not on the significance of the decision).
Use historic if you want to say marking history, important, significant
Use historical if you want to say belonging to the past, old, regarding the study of history
Try this short quiz to practice. Choose between historic and historical to complete each sentence:
There you are! Now you can use historic and historical with greater confidence. Congratulations! 😉