Invoke vs. Evoke – The Correct Way to Use Each

Invoke vs. Evoke: What’s the Gist?

  • Evoke is to call an image or memory to mind.
  • Invoke is to call upon a higher power.

Continue reading for a more complete discussion of the two words.


invoke versus evoke

Evoke and invoke are similar verbs that confuse many writers. They appear closely related, and indeed, both words can be traced to similar roots in French and Latin. However, they have come to mean different things in most contexts.

A senator, for instance, might invoke an arcane procedural rule to control a debate. An artist seeks to evoke emotions in an audience.

What is the Difference Between Invoke and Evoke?

In this post, I will compare these confusing English verbs. I will outline the definition of each word and use each in example sentences

Plus, I will show you a mnemonic device that will help you choose either evoke or invoke in your own writing.

How to Use Invoke

Invoke definition: Invoke is a verb. To invoke something is to cite it or appeal to it. One might invoke a statute or an authority figure to make a point.

For example,

  • The Senate invoked cloture to bring the filibuster to a swift and decisive end.
  • The reverend invoked the blessings of God upon the church body.

Invoke is a regular verb. It becomes invoked in simple past, invokes in the third-person singular present, and invoking in the present participle.

Invoke is the root of the noun invocation, which refers to the act of invoking something.

How to Use Evoke

Evoke definition: Evoke is also a verb. It means to call an image to mind. A skilled poet might use language to evoke the image of a wind-swept tundra, or a filmmaker might use stark colors and empty set pieces to evoke a sense of isolation.

For example,

  • The trumpet parts and snare rhythms in this symphony evoke the excitement of a looming battle.
  • Some critics argue that Radiohead’s music evokes little more than a feeling of general malaise.

Like invoke, evoke is a regular verb. It becomes evoked in the simple past tense, evokes in third-person singular present tense, and evoking in the present participle. In future tenses, it simply remains evoke and takes on helping verbs, like in the phrase Val will evoke.

Outside Examples of Evoke vs. Invoke

  • He also said that Mr. Levandowski’s decision to invoke the Fifth Amendment may change as they examine the case. –The New York Times
  • You hear Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner and the others invoke patience, and even if that’s never been your baseball DNA default position as a Yankees fan, you’ve bought in. –New York Post
  • WHAT DOES nostalgia taste like? For you, Great Aunt Mildred’s matzo ball soup may evoke her enveloping hugs, rose-scented perfume and uncanny mimicry skills, but take that soup to someone else’s Passover Seder and it’s the disappointing substitute for the venerated bowlful from the local deli. –The Wall Street Journal
  • The setting, on the other hand, is a multiroom extravaganza based (a wee bit) on the brothers’ childhood and meant to evoke a sense of home. –The Washington Post

How to Remember These Words

Invoke and evoke are both verbs, but they have separate meanings and cannot be substituted for each other.

  • Invoke means to cite or make an appeal.
  • Evoke means to call something to mind.

Since invoke and cite are both spelled with the letter I, you can use this spelling commonality as a remind of the differences between these verbs.

Summary

Is invoke or evoke correct? These two words are easy to mix up, since they are superficially similar, and they both function as verbs.

Still, their meanings are usually separate, and it is important to know when to use each.

  • Evoke means to call something to mind.
  • Invoke means to make a citation or appeal.

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