Affective vs. effective

  • Affective is an adjective meaning influenced by emotions or arousing emotions. It is roughly synonymous with emotional. It’s used mainly in psychology, where affective disorders are conditions characterized by emotional problems or mood disturbances, though it does appear occasionally outside psychology.


    The much more common effective means (1) producing a desired effect, (2) in effect, (3) actual, and (4) impressive.




    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]


    1. And yet, I sometimes pause when writing one or the other. I imagine that effective is used much more often tha affective.

    2. ‘affective’, in my opinion, is not the most effective word to use most of the time

    3. This problem is even more pronounced when we look at ‘affect’ and ‘effect’ – each with its own noun and verb form.

    4. VegasMojo says

      ‘affect & effect’ – I heard the proper way to use them is: you can effect an affect, but you cannot affect an effect.

      • fredpas1 says

        Best ‘Rule’ ever !! Concise and explanative. This will ‘effect’ my ‘affect’ when talking and writing. Thank you. (Seriously, Thank you.)

        • No! Affect your effect! Sorry. This is probably upsetting me more than it should. My inner grammar Nazi is surfacing.

        • Wrong…The correct form is: the effect (noun) affect (verb)….

          • chaos amoeba says

            This seems a bit of a zombie thread.

            The original poster is highlighting that effect and affect are both nouns and verbs. Effect (noun) is a consequence; to effect (verb) means to bring about. Affect (noun) is an emotional state [it’s actually a bit broader, since things like hunger and pain, which are not considered emotions (or moods) are considered affects, but, whatever…]; to affect (verb) means to influence.

            Nonetheless, in contrast to the original poster’s claim, you can effect affect, affect effects, effect effects, and affect affect. Effect affect: “That movie made me sad.” Affect effect: “Reducing the flame caused the water to come to boil more slowly.” Effect effects: “Turning on the flame made the water boil.” Affect affect: “My sadness was reduced after being told that the movie was fictional.”

      • Surely that should be the other way around?

      • I believe that: Affect is a verb and Effect is a noun therefore I would say: The effect of the weather affect the crops…note: if one can put an article in front a word then it is a noun (the effect) for example. But it is grammatically wrong to say : the affect because affect is a vert. Of course one can make a noun by saying ‘the affected crops went bad…for example. But never : the affect, because in this way it is VERB…

    5. Tony Abbot often says: …can be affectively done…
      is it right or he should say: can be effectively done?

    6. Ed Bradford says

      Affect is both a noun and verb.
      Effect is both a noun and verb.
      Is “Affect” associated only with emotions?

    7. My high school Latin comes in to save the day for me here. I don’t know if it will help anyone else.

      Both affect and effect have as the root: facio, to make. The prefix “ad” means to and “ex” means from. Thus, ad+facio = to make, or affect, as in to affect a result. Ex+facio = make from, or effect, as in the effect one makes from something.

    8. As in an affection (I’m thinking as in the affection of a lover) or feeling?

    9. TalkShop Best English School says

      The difference between Affective and Effective is Affective refers to emotion while Effective refers to producing result or something that works

    10. Affective marketing creates the emotion while effective marketing creates the desire. You most likely created an AFFECTIVE marketing strategy to get a customer to EFFECTIVELY make a purchase with you.

    11. B-b-but what of “impactful”?
      Seriously though, I halfway believe that the reason the word “impact” has gone from being occasionally used as a metaphor for “affect”, to almost entirely supplanting the word, largely has to do with some folk’s confusion over the words affect and effect.
      After all, why take the chance of exposing one’s ignorance when the issue can be dodged entirely:
      For some, the sound of ocean waves have a soothing impact (effect).
      An expectant mother’s smoking may negatively impact (affect) her unborn child.

    12. What if you were to say that by a certain date something would occur such as in writing a letter of employment termination: “Affective on September 4, her employment ended” or is it “Effective on Sept 4, her employment ended…..”

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