Wordwatch Towers

A plain language guide to punctuation, grammar and writing well.

Practical or practicable?

with 2 comments

Some standard screwdrivers
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Practical

‘Practical’ has a number of meanings. See Oxford Dictionaries. Here are a few examples of how it can be used:

It is commonly used to describe someone who is good at manual tasks or efficient in their general approach to things. For example:

She is a very practical woman and will tackle any DIY job that needs to be done.

It is used to describe an object that is serviceable and fit for purpose. For example:

This practical tool will make weeding easy.

‘Practical’ can also be used to mean a realistic or sensible approach to something. For example:

We must be practical and start saving money.

Practicable

‘Practicable’ is more limited in the way it can be used. See Oxford Dictionaries.

If something is practicable, it means it can be done. For example:

Is the plan practicable? (In other words: Can the plan be carried out?)

The project is practicable but will take a long time. (In other words: The project can be done but will take a long time.)

More commonly confused words and phrases

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2 Responses

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  1. Practicable is also a nice, evasive abstract. When someone declines your invite or project proposal, saying it’s not practicable, you never know quite why. See also feasible and workable.

    Michael Farrell

    13/04/2010 at 1:20 pm

    • Yes, that’s very true! Thanks, Michael.

      Deborah

      13/04/2010 at 1:34 pm


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