Commonly Confused Words: Historic/Historical

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Is the American Revolution a historic or a historical event (or both)?

Historic (adjective):

  • Historic is an adjective that is used to describe a significant or influential event from history: “The signing of the Declaration of Independence was a historic event.”

Historical (adjective):

  • Historical is an adjective that is used to describe anything relating to history: “There is a historical pattern of global warming since the 1950s.”
  • Note: Historical can also be used as an adverb in the form of historically, which is typically at the start of a sentence and modifies the whole sentence rather than just the verb: “Historically, we can find no such trend.”

Rule: If emphasizing an event’s importance, use historic; if highlighting the past nature or quality of something, use historical.

Historically, trends in learning have consistently shown that practice problems play a pivotal role in enhancing memory retention. So here are a few problems to try out!

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1. Which of the following sentences correctly use historic and historical? 

I. The verdict was historic, setting a new precedent for the State.

II. The lawyer presented historical documents to support his client’s claim.

III. The case was a historical event in the field of family law.

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2. In the next sentence, which of the underlined words or phrases, if any, has an error? Historically, fewer than a quarter of preteen baseball players identified by this coach as likely to make the high-school team have performed as expected.

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3.  In which one of these sentences is the underlined language correct?

I. The judge referenced historical procedures that the court had been using for centuries.

II. The legislation was a historical moment for civil rights.

III. The plaintiff was unable to show that there had been a historic practice of discrimination by the corporation.

IV. The Burger Court discovered a historical number of civil rights embedded in the Constitution.

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