Affective vs. Effective | Difference & Example Sentences

Affective and effective are two adjectives that are commonly confused.

  • Affective (pronounced [af-ek-tiv]) describes something that influences or causes feelings or emotions. It can also describe how these emotions are expressed.
  • Effective (pronounced [if-ek-tiv]) instead signifies that something is having an effect (especially the effect that was hoped for).
Examples: “Affective” in a sentence Examples: “Effective” in a sentence
Her affective disorder made it difficult for her to work a standard job.

Cognitive bias can be suggested by several affective symptoms.

You’re fired, effective immediately.

The new study methods proved effective for the at-risk students.

Tip
The best approach is to bear in mind that effective is a much more commonly used word than affective. If the sentence doesn’t immediately relate to feelings or emotions, the correct word is effective.

The distinction made here is the same as that between the related nouns affect and effect—where, again, affect (as a noun) is much rarer than effect.

Uses of effective

Effective is a very commonly used word—much more common than affective. It’s typically used to mean “having the intended effect.” It can also simply mean having any effect at all, being in effect, or being actual (as opposed to potential).

Examples: Effective in a sentence
Pilates is an effective way to improve your posture.

The new policy is effective from next Monday onward.

The effective output of the factory is much lower than its production capacity.

Note
Effective comes from the noun effect—the result of some cause. Another related noun is effectiveness (or, very rarely, effectivity)—the quality of being effective (e.g., “The effectiveness of the new law was lauded in academic circles”). The adverb is effectively.

Uses of affective

Affective is always used in relation to feelings or emotions. It is an important term in the field of psychology, but it’s otherwise not a particularly common word. You’re unlikely to see it often in other contexts.

Examples: Affective in a sentence
Conditions such as depression and bipolar disorder are often referred to as affective disorders.

The patient’s affective responses were monitored closely.

Note
Affective comes from the noun affect, meaning emotion or the way in which emotion is displayed. Another related noun is affectivity—the quality of being affective. The adverb is affectively.

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Worksheet: Effective vs. affective

Test your knowledge of the difference between “affective” and “effective” with these practice sentences. Fill in either “accept” or “except” in each sentence.

  1. The policy proved quite  ________ at stopping truancy.
  2. She was diagnosed with an  _______ disorder as a teenager.
  3. Unfortunately, the treatment was not  __________ in curing her illness.
  4. It is thought that one’s ______ abilities impact one’s emotional development.
  5. When do the new rules become _______?
  1. The policy proved quite effective at stopping truancy.
    • Since the policy had the effect it should have, use “effective.”
  1. She was diagnosed with an affective disorder as a teenager.
    • “Affective disorder” is a psychological term used to refer to conditions affecting the emotions, such as depression.
  1. Unfortunately, the treatment was not effective in curing her illness.
    • Since the issue is whether the treatment had the effect it should have, use “effective.”
  1. It is thought that one’s affective abilities impact one’s emotional development.
    • The phrase “emotional development” here suggests that you should use “affective.”
  1. When do the new rules become effective?
    • “Effective” here means “active” or “in effect”—the question is when the new rules come into action.

    Frequently asked questions

    What is a synonym for effective?

    A few synonyms and near synonyms for effective include:

    • Actual
    • Efficient
    • Efficacious
    • Operative
    • Productive
    • Proficient
    What is a synonym for affective?

    Affective, as an adjective with quite a specific meaning—“relating to the emotions”—in the field of psychology, should usually not be replaced with a synonym, as it wouldn’t capture the same meaning.

    Some words that capture similar meanings are “emotional” and “sentimental,” but these are less specific terms that are used in more general contexts.

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    George, T. (2022, November 25). Affective vs. Effective | Difference & Example Sentences. Scribbr. Retrieved February 6, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/commonly-confused-words/affective-vs-effective/

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    Tegan George

    Tegan is an American based in Amsterdam, with master's degrees in political science and education administration. While she is definitely a political scientist at heart, her experience working at universities led to a passion for making social science topics more approachable and exciting to students.