When to use 'effective' and 'affective'



I find the words 'effective' and 'affective' confusing. When should each of these be used?

Post Script: I have checked the dictionaries that I use (of course, not the ones that run in several volumes). None of them defines the word "affective", but each of them defines the word "effective". Believe me, the word "affective" is not a general reference. Can you please define the word "affective" and cite a few example sentences?


Posted 2016-01-22T17:55:29.563

Reputation: 1 061

6Affective is an extremely rare word, and you should almost never need to use it; effective is almost certainly what you mean every time. Are you sure you don't mean affect and effect? – stangdon – 2016-01-22T17:59:49.997

3@Rathony - I find a similar question on this community. The question runs: "Is there any difference between 'solved the problem' and 'fixed the problem'? Do people actually use both forms?" The question has even an answer from you. Your answer has as many as 10 upvotes. If that question is okay, then why not this? – Dinesh Kumar Garg – 2016-01-22T18:49:04.117

You can answer this question with any dictionary you have. This is general reference. – None – 2016-01-22T18:49:24.503

@Rathony - I find the words "affect", "affects", "affecting", "affected", "affection" and "affectation" in the Collins Cobuild English Language Dictionary (Indian Reprint 1991) that I use. "Affective" does not figure in the dictionary. However, "effective" is a common word and it can be found in even the smallest dictionaries. Do you say the question is still a "general reference"? – Dinesh Kumar Garg – 2016-01-23T02:48:15.133


Every dictionary I've checked has had a definition of affective, for example, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/affective http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/affective Can you explain why those definitions and the answers you've already received are not helpful to you? Closing a question doesn't mean it's a bad question, just that it's not a good fit for this site. I don't think re-opening this without some further refinement of the question is going to result in a better answer than the ones already available.

– ColleenV – 2016-01-23T03:38:07.020

@ColleenV - Please refer to the comment of stangdon above. "Affective" is a very rare word. It is not there in a 2000-page dictionary (Collins Cobuild English Language Dictionary, Indian Reprint 1991) that I usually use. It could be there in every dictionary you incidentally checked, but is not there in every dictionary people use. – Dinesh Kumar Garg – 2016-01-23T05:37:13.503


@DineshKumarGarg - A good resource for checking dictionaries is OneLook.com; it searches several online dictionaries. A truly unusual word may only be found in a few dictionaries; for example, qubit is found in only nine. In the case of affective, it's found in 26 dictionaries, one fewer than the word was. "Rare" in this case does not mean "hard to find in a dictionary," it simply means, "seldom used in everyday conversation."

– J.R. – 2016-01-23T18:26:57.733



"Affective" is a psychological term meaning "having to do with emotions". Psychologists will say things like, "The patient exhibited affective behavior." This is a rather rare word, and unless you're talking about psychology, it's probably not what you mean.

"Effective" is a common word meaning "having the intended result" or "in operation". In the first sense you might say, "This medicine is very effective at relieving headache pain", or "Increasing the manifold size proved to be an effective way to improve horsepower." In the second sense you might say, "The new law will be effective June 1".


Posted 2016-01-22T17:55:29.563

Reputation: 51 729

1Seasonal Affective Disorder is probably one of the more well-known uses of the word "affective" - I can't think of any place I've seen it used outside of Psychology. – ColleenV – 2016-01-22T20:52:38.097


They are both adjectives, but they are different.

Affective means;

Of, caused by, or expressing emotion or feeling; emotional.

Causing emotion or feeling.

The TV drama was affective.

effective means;

Producing a result that is wanted.

Having an intended effect.

Using a car instead of bike, is very effective.

Sam Harrington

Posted 2016-01-22T17:55:29.563

Reputation: 1 248

2No, they sound similar, maybe they have a common etymology, but they don't mean the same thing. "Affective" means, as you quote, related to emotions. "Affected" means influenced or changed. Your emotions could be influenced, but so could many other things. It's perfectly valid and reasonable to say, "His reasoning was affected by too much alcohol" or "A car's performance can be affected by the octane of the gasoline." – Jay – 2016-01-22T18:58:49.147

Yes, better example. :-) – Jay – 2016-01-22T19:14:42.497

@Sam Harrington - What do you mean when you say "The TV drama was affective". Can a medical treatment be "affective"? It could be "effective", of course. – Dinesh Kumar Garg – 2016-01-24T06:25:19.647

That's a good question, I mean that the "tv drama" influenced the viewers emotions. – Sam Harrington – 2016-01-25T17:08:48.197

But no I don't think that a medical treatment could be 'affective' though. – Sam Harrington – 2016-01-25T17:10:38.893

And to be totally honest I think that a "tv drama" isn't the best of examples, but I wasn't able to think of a better one. – Sam Harrington – 2016-01-25T17:12:06.213