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Effective vs. Affective

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  Angbeen Chaudhary  —  Grammar Tips
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There are a lot of English words that have similar meanings to one another, making it difficult to tell them apart. Exactly which word is used for what and when? It’s tough to tell with some words because their meanings are so much alike. Luckily, this is not the case with our two words today, affective vs. effective. While these words might sound similar when spoken, their meanings are quite distinct.

In this post, I want to discuss the differences between affective and effective, both of which function as adjectives. I will go over their definitions, use example sentences to demonstrate their meanings, and give you a tip at the end of the post to remember the difference. After reading this post, you won’t have to second-guess yourself ever again, “Should I use affective or effective?”


The word effective originated from late Middle English: from Latin effectivus, from efficere ‘accomplish’. The word affective originated from late Middle English: via French from late Latin affectivus, from afficere

Effective as adjective:

The word effective is used as an adjective in English language where it is used to describe success in producing a desired or intended result.

Effective solutions to environmental problems.

Effective is also used in the sense of existing in fact, though not formally acknowledged as such.

She has been under effective house arrest since September.

Something that is assessed according to actual rather than face value is also called effective.

An effective price of £176 million.

Affective as adjective:

Affective is used as an adjective to describe things relating to moods, feelings, and attitudes. It is defined as influenced by or resulting from the emotions. It is roughly synonymous with emotional.

Effective vs. Affective

One clue for beating the blahs this time of year can be found in Iceland. It has an extremely dark winter, yet the people there have virtually no seasonal affective disorder.


The questionnaires at the beginning of the study measured general affective distress, where participants reported how often during the previous 30 days they had felt worthless, hopeless, nervous, restless or fidgety. [NHS Choices]

Objectives in the affective domain are concerned with the development of students’ attitudes, feelings, and emotions.[Effective Instructional Strategies, Kenneth D. Moore]

It uses unabashedly affective terms like “love” to describe its highly effective philosophy of working with low-income and minority young people. [Huffington Post]

So the single most effective way to improve as a runner is to consistently run a lot. [Running Times]

To deliver an effective finale a series has to provide a satisfying resolution to the central story while leaving sufficient storylines unresolved. [The Independent]

The most effective project managers are those who can both deal effectively with conflict and get along well with other people. [The Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice]

Affective or effective:

Is it effective or affective? Well, that depends on the context of your sentence of course. Affective is mostly limited to the world of psychology and deals with emotions, feelings, and moods, do not confuse it, however, with the verb affect. Effective is used in everyday language and means successful in achieving a desired result. When thinking of the word effective, ask yourself whether or not the job at hand got done. It may not have been pretty, but if it got done, whatever it was was effective. The “E” at the end of done can signal the “E” at the beginning of effective. As for the word affective, my advice would be to avoid it unless you are in the field of psychology.


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