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affective vs effectiveIt can be hard enough for people to grasp the difference between affect and effect, but what about affective vs. effective? They’re spelled similarly, but just like affect and effect (which they’re derived from), affective and effective mean completely different things. In fact, the definitions of affective vs. effective are much different from each other than the definitions of affect vs. effect.

To avoid confusing you any more, let’s get right into it. If English is not your first language, it might help to take an elementary English language course, or read up on some English grammar conventions to better understand the concepts explained here.

Definitions of Affect and Effect

To understand the definitions of affective and effective, it helps to know the definitions of affect and effect. The following definitions are pulled from Merriam-Webster:

affect – noun

Syllabification: af·fect Pronunciation: \ˈa-ˌfekt\


There is also a transitive verb variation of affect that means “to produce an effect upon.” This is used in cases such as: “Will the weather affect our commute?” or “Her disgust with the lead actor greatly affected her ability to enjoy the film.” The noun version of affect listed above is more relevant in our examination of the word affective, since they’re directly linked.

effect – noun

Syllabification: ef·fect Pronunciation: /iˈfekt/


Keep these definitions in mind while we take a look at the definitions for affective and effective.

Definitions of Affective and Effective

The following definitions are also pulled from Merriam-Webster:

affective – adjective

Syllabification: af·fec·tive Pronunciation: \a-ˈfek-tiv\


effective – adjective

Syllabification: ef·fec·tive Pronunciation: \i-ˈfek-tiv\


Affective vs. Effective

Definitions often aren’t enough to go off of. After all, you probably wouldn’t be here if just looking the words up in the dictionary was enough to answer your question!

Before we talk definitions, though, let’s examine pronunciations. Both affective and effective are pronounced very similarly, with affective starting with an “uh” sound, as in “uh-fekt-iv,” and effective beginning with more of an “ee” or “ih” sound, as in “ee-fekt-iv” or “ih-fekt-iv.” Consult this course for a deeper understanding of English pronunciation.

In terms of definition, the primary difference between affective and effective is one you usually don’t have to concern yourself with, as long as you know what effective means. Affective is often used as a medical term to refer to emotions, or the arousal of emotions. It is relatively outdated to refer to someone’s “affect,” or emotional state, in everyday speech. It’s perfectly normal in psychology, however, to refer to “affective symptoms,” referring to symptoms involving emotional changes, or an “affective disorder,” referring to an illness that causes mood swings.

On the other hand, effective is an adjective used to refer to when something has the intended result. When something has the desired effect, it is said to be effective. It can also be used to refer to when something is put into action, as in, “The new rule is effective tomorrow.” Saying this would be the same as saying, “The new rule goes into effect tomorrow.” It helps to think about the definition of effect when learning to use effective, since effect is its derivative, after all.

Effective also has an adverb variation, effectively, which refers to when something is done in a manner that is effective. You can also say something is ineffective, which means it was not effective.

This is where it gets tricky. The word affective can also be used in a manner very similar, but not quite the same, as effective. As we saw before, the word affect means “to have an effect upon.” It’s accurate, but not common, to refer to how affective a person is at effecting a change. For instance, “The saleswoman’s words were affective enough to change their minds.” You could just as easily, and probably more comfortably, say, “The saleswoman was effective in changing their minds,” but when we say her “words were affective,” we are referring to her ability to instill a change, or effect.

Both make sense, and sound the same in speech, but if you want to be safe, stick with effective. It is, in many ways, the more effective word to use, in most cases!

Memorizing such minor differences in vocabulary can be difficult, especially if you’re still learning English. Discover the keys to learning and memorizing vocabulary with this language course.


When it comes to language, learning by example is one of the most effective practices. Below, we’ll present some example sentences that use affective and effective, with a quiz below that to test your understanding.



This SAT Reading course offers helpful vocabulary help, even if you aren’t preparing for the SAT. It may also help to consult an intermediate English language course, or a class on advanced English grammar. More in-depth language classes like these will give you a much deeper understanding of the fundamental differences between affective vs. effective.

Page Last Updated: February 2020

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