Invoke vs. Evoke: Avoid Mistakes With These Tricky Words

It's easy to confuse the words invoke and evoke, as they look and sound very much alike. They are both verbs that can be traced back to the Latin root vocare, which means "to call," but they don't refer to the same type of call. That's the key to being able to use these two terms correctly. Find out how to properly choose between invoke vs. evoke when you're writing or speaking.

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Invoke Definition

The word invoke comes from the Latin term invocare, which specifically means “to call upon” and requires a specific action. This term can be used in several ways, all of which involve someone actively making some type of request.

Meanings include:

  • calling upon others for assistance
  • soliciting or requesting support
  • uttering an incantation, quote or saying
  • making something happen or occur
  • putting something into effect

For example, when a person who is accused of a crime chooses not to answer a question in court in order to avoid self-incrimination, that person is exercising his or her right to invoke the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. In other words, that person is putting that specific protection into place by saying so out loud.

Evoke Definition

Evoke derives from the Latin word evocare, which means “to call forth.” This term can also be used in several ways, but none relate to calling for action or making a direct request. Evoke is used to refer to recalling or bringing something to mind rather than acting in a direct way.

Meanings include:

  • replaying something that has occurred in one's mind
  • causing someone to recollect an event or occurrence
  • using one's imagination to reconstruct something that has taken place

For example, when a smell causes a memory to come to mind, that smell is evoking the past. If the smell of a certain type of flower or plant that grew in the yard of your childhood home always makes you feel like you're back there, then that odor is one that evokes a memory for you.

Invoke vs. Evoke: Sentence Examples for Each

The verbs invoke and invoke can be used in present, past tense (add a "d") or present participle ( and -ing) forms. You can also add an "s" to either word for present tense, third-person point of view usage. Review these sample sentences for examples of each.

Using Invoke in a Sentence

The sample sentences below all illustrate correct ways to use the word invoke (or an alternate form) in a sentence. It would be incorrect to use evoke in any of these sentences.

  • My current employer could invoke the non-compete clause in my contract if I accept a job with a competitor.
  • The attorney invoked a biblical reference in the hopes of encouraging the jury to show mercy on her client.
  • My landlord is invoking the right to refuse to renew my lease.
  • What will happen to him if he invokes the right to remain silent when being arrested?
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Using Evoke in a Sentence

The following example sentences provide options for using the various forms of the word evoke in a sentence. It would not be correct to substitute the word invoke in these sentences.

  • The smell of engine oil always seems to evoke images of my father coming home from work at the machine shop.
  • I cried when my new boyfriend brought me red roses because they evoked the sadness of my breakup with Josh.
  • Going through all of these old family photos is evoking memories of much happier times in my life.
  • Listening to him drone on and on evokes memories of the history class I failed last semester.

Synonyms for Invoke and Evoke

While the words invoke and evoke cannot be used interchangeably, each term does have some synonyms of its own. If you're not sure which term to use, try substituting a few synonyms to see which ones make sense. You could either keep the chosen synonym, or use what you learn to choose between invoke vs. evoke.

Words/Phrases Similar to Invoke

The following words have meanings fairly close to that of invoke.

  • chant
  • cite
  • entreat
  • implement
  • petition
  • put into action
  • quote
  • recite
  • request
  • solicit
  • summon a spirit

Words/Phrases Similar to Evoke

The following words can be used in a way similar to the word evoke.

  • bring to mind
  • call up
  • elicit
  • recall
  • recollect
  • remind
  • reminiscent
  • summon a memory

Navigating Tricky Language Usage

Knowing when to use evoke vs. invoke is definitely a tricky language usage topic. It's certainly not the only one. There are quite a few words that look and sound similar that are not synonyms for each other. Now that you have the information you need to choose between invoke and evoke, go ahead and build your skills with other challenging word pairs. Start building your skills by mastering the difference between infer and imply. Then, explore either vs. neither. From there, discover some of the most commonly confused words in the English language.