Learn English – the difference between “special” and “specific” in usage


Which one is correct to use in the following sentence; special or specific?

Both adjectives seem to be interchangeable.
According to Dictionary.com, specific means 1. having a special application, bearing, or reference; specifying, explicit, or definite. While special means “4. having a specific or particular function, purpose, etc.

  1. These exercises did not show any special impact on his overall articulation.
  2. These exercises did not show any specific impact

Best Answer

"special impact" implies that there is normally an impact of some sort, and so "special" means "some impact in this instance that is different to the normal impact".

"specific impact" would, I think, mean "clearly defined" in this context, and is actually (in my opinion) an example of a meaningless word which people insert into text to appear more clever, or to give some degree of plausible deniability if they turn out to be wrong, later, ie to "hedge their bets". This sort of language is very popular in a scientific or academic context, where people are often terrified of writing something which turns out to be provably false later.