When to use -ctive and -ctional?
January 21, 2009 12:29 PM   Subscribe

When should I use "instructive" and when should I use "instructional"?

Or "educational" and "eductive"?

(I realize the answer to this will be ... educational?)
posted by gmm to Writing & Language (7 answers total)
just my opinion, but 'instructional' implies, in the context of a film, the intent of the film producer to create a resource which will serve as a reference for some topic. "Instructive" seems to be a word a viewer might use upon reviewing the film, provided it has been effective in its intent.
posted by Lou Stuells at 12:35 PM on January 21, 2009

"Instructional" means that someone created it for the purpose of instructing people. For instance, to call something an instructional video means that some people got together and decided: hey, let's make a video that teaches people carpentry / aerobics / etc.

"Instructive" is NOT typically used to refer to a whole piece of work like a video or a pamphlet. It's more like you are finding instruction in something out in the world that happened. For instance, FDR's New Deal might be "instructive" in how to deal with an economic crisis -- that is, we look at it after the fact and find guidance. If FDR had written a pamphlet meant to advise people in the future who might be dealing with an economic crisis, you could call it an "instructional" pamphlet.

On preview, same as above.
posted by Jaltcoh at 12:41 PM on January 21, 2009

Instructional means that the purveyor intended to teach the audience something. Instructive means that the audience actually learned something.

Something that is instructional is intended to be instructive, but sometimes fails. And sometimes, an experience that was not explicitly intended to be instructional can turn out to be instructive in practice.

I assume, in the second example, that you mean "educative." I didn't think that "eductive" was a word, but apparently, it refers to a type of industrial nozzle. But educational/educative follows the same principle as instructional/instructive.
posted by decathecting at 12:43 PM on January 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

What others said. The definitions below are from the OED, and hint at that difference. It's the distinction between being designed/intended one way and having the actual effect. Instructional manuals may or may not be actually instructive. And lots of things with completely unrelated intent can be instructive to some viewers.

Instructional: Of or pertaining to instruction or teaching; educational.

Instructive: Having the character or quality of instructing; conveying instruction or knowledge.
posted by mercredi at 12:47 PM on January 21, 2009

Great answers, thank you all, I think I conclude:

x-tional means intended to be x

x-tive means it IS x

as in:

I hoped this post would be educational, and it certainly turned out to be educative.
posted by gmm at 12:54 PM on January 21, 2009

Instruction-al means it contains an instruction. Instruct-ive means it does instruct. Instructions instruct too. There should be no real difference in the dictionary. However, I think "instructive" feels more like it helps you, and "instructional" feels more like it is intended by its author/creator to be instructive. So "instructional" is from the teacher's perspective, and "instructive" is from the student's perspective. They may not agree, but they are supposed to.
posted by kconner at 1:09 PM on January 21, 2009

I don't think actual usage corresponds with your abstractions -- they seem to only work neatly with "instruct".

If someone said, "I think you'll find this video very instructional", it would strike me as wrong. Further, if someone said "please watch this instructive video", I would think they were making someone sort of judgment about the video, not its intended use. These intuitions correspond with the definitions you all laid out.

However, "educational" can be used in any of these instances. If someone said, "I think you'll find this video very educational", it would not seem strange in the least, and it is something I would say and hear commonly. Or, "that was quite an educational experience!" Perfectly normal. ("Educative" does seem to be restricted in the same way that "instructive" is though).
posted by kosmonaut at 1:38 PM on January 21, 2009

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