Evoke vs. Invoke: What’s the Difference?

While these two words aren’t quite homophones or homonyms, they still sound similar enough to cause some confusion—especially since we don’t use them on a daily basis. So what exactly is the difference between evoke and invoke? In this post, we’ll talk about their differences and give you a few ways to remember the difference between evoke vs. invoke.

When to Use Evoke

meaning-of-evoke-invocationThe word evoke means to bring something forth or to recall something to the conscious mind. It typically implies some type of emotion, imagery, or memory. For example,

  • The comic strip will evoke laughter from its audience.
  • This painting evokes childhood memories.
  • His story evoked sympathy from the jury.

Evoke is usually an indirect action and not something that is necessarily done actively.

When to Use Invoke

The definition of invoke has a number of meanings, including to assert (something) as authority, to appeal (to someone or a higher power) for help, or to conjure up (to invoke spirits of the past). For example,

  • The president invoked martial law to stop the protests.
  • He invoked the law to win the case.
  • Great Britain invoked military aid from the United States.
  • The ceremony used candles to invoke spirits from the grave.

As you can see, invoke is more direct and active than evoke in that all of these examples have an action that is being actively or intentionally performed.

The word invoke was first used as a calling out to God where you would issue an invocation asking for strength, mercy, a prosperous year, or whatever the case may be. Today the word has expanded its meaning but still has to do with being direct and active.

Practice Quiz and Examples

Here are a few sentences you can practice with.

  1. His words _________ a smile to my face.
  2. Her tire was flat, so she _________ the help from a fellow driver.
  3. This night _________ a similar night I had as a child.
  4. At this point I would like to _________ my Fifth Amendment rights.

Display the answers below.

Remember the Difference

A good trick to keep these two words apart is that evoke starts with an “E” and to evoke something is Effortless because it is less active and purposeful than invoke.

Invoke begins with an “I” and is Intentional because to invoke something is a purposeful action.

Here is a good example sentence illustrating their difference,

If you “invoke” the spirit of Beethoven, you are trying to summon his spirit from the dead, but if your music “evokes” the spirit of Beethoven, it simply means your style is reminiscent of Beethoven and it makes your listeners think of his work.

Summary

Evoke means to draw forth or to call something to mind and usually applies to feelings and memories. It starts with an “E” and is Effortless because it is less purposefully active.

Invoke has a few different meanings such as to call on, to appeal to, and to call for. All of these involve an active “doer,” who Intentionally does them.

Answers

  1. Evoke
  2. Invoked
  3. Evoked
  4. Invoke

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