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How To Use Evoke, Invoke, and Provoke Correctly

Words that share almost a similar sound like ‘evoke’, ‘invoke’, and ‘provoke’ is one of the biggest struggle Malaysians have when speaking in English. It is easy to assume that these words have the same meaning. After all, in Bahasa Melayu, we have many of that where those words are tied together under ‘imbuhan‘. But that is not the case with ‘evoke’, ‘invoke’, and ‘provoke’.

‘Evoke’, ‘invoke’, and ‘provoke’ share a similarity in their meaning whereby all three words elicit a response. And that’s where the similarity ends. The type of response (emotion or action) that conjure from ‘evoke’, ‘invoke’, and ‘provoke’ are different. Hence, the correct use of these words aids in clear communication. Especially as non-native speakers, it is difficult to be fluent when your mind is in frantic search of the right word.

Read along below to find out the easy ways to differentiate the use of ‘evoke’, ‘invoke’, and ‘provoke’ especially for Malaysians.

Definitions of ‘Evoke’, ‘Invoke’, and ‘Provoke’

As mentioned above, the words ‘evoke’, ‘invoke’, and ‘provoke’ mean to explain an action that elicits a response. For the correct use of these words, we must first know the type of response we’re expecting or we saw. When it comes to types of response, it could be a positive memory or a negative memory, it could also be an emotion, or it could also be a physical action.

When you’re talking about an action that reignites a memory or inspires a person, use ‘evoke‘. However, if you’re talking about an action that calls upon an entity to respond, use ‘invoke‘. And last but not least, if you’re talking about an action that seeks negative reactive, use ‘provoke‘.


  1. Old photographs of my grandmother evoked painful memories of World War II.
  2. Listening to motivational podcasts evokes my spirit to become a better person.
  3. The sound of birds chirping on a breezy Sunday morning evokes the feeling of relaxation and well-being.
  1. Gambar lama nenek saya mengingatkan dia akan memori pedih Perang Dunia Kedua.
  2. Audio siar berkaitan motivasi menguatkan semangat saya untuk menjadi manusia yang lebih baik.
  3. Bunyi burung berkicauan dengan tiupan angin yang nyaman pada hari Ahad menghidupkan suasana santai dan sejahtera.

Notice how the use of ‘evoke‘ stirs the emotions and that the response happens subconsciously or involuntarily. Almost as if we couldn’t help the gush of emotions that follows upon an action.


  1. The bomoh invoked the spirit to leave the dying man’s body.
  2. The petition invoked the Director to step down from his position.
  3. The lessons from his failures in life invoked him to write a memoir about the gift of failure.
  1. Si bomoh menyeru makhluk halus itu untuk nyah dari badan lelaki yang sedang tenat itu.
  2. Petisyen itu meminta Pengarah untuk meletak jawatan.
  3. Pengajaran dari kegagalan dalam hidupnya menyebabkan dia menulis sebuah memoir tentang cenderamata yang tersisip dalam setiap kegagalan.

Notice the use of ‘invoke‘ calls upon an action by the other party. It can also be simplified that ‘to invoke’ is ‘to force a person/something to voluntarily take an action’.


  1. The students provoked the school rules by giving lame excuses when caught.
  2. He tried to provoke his friends by dressing like a businessman at their reunion.
  3. Her artwork provoked satire about the authority without her saying a word.
  1. Para pelajar mencabar peraturan sekolah dengan memberi alasan yang remeh bila tertangkap.
  2. Dia cuba membangkitkan iri hati kawan-kawanya dengan berpakaian seperti seorang ahli perniagaan di majlis perjumpaan sekolah lamanya.
  3. Hasil seninya mempersenda pihak berkuasa tanpa berkata apa-apa.

Notice the use of ‘provoke’ incites a negative reaction. However, do note that not all provocation must end with the other party retaliating negatively. The use of ‘provoke’ shows the intent of the action but doesn’t necessarily define the reaction.


The correct use of ‘evoke‘, ‘invoke‘, and ‘provoke‘ paints a clear picture of the type of stimulus and response in your sentence. Using these words correctly aids with effective communication which in turn aids with the structure of response you’re expecting. Clear communication not only delivers your message effectively but also helps strengthen the quality of response you get.

I hope this blog post helps you to understand the correct use of ‘evoke’, ‘invoke’, and ‘provoke’ correctly. In the same breath, I hope this explanation EVOKED your interest to subscribe to Weekly Email. My Weekly Email is the place I share most of my thoughts, the books I read, and some tips about the English Language here and there. If you wish to connect with me and receive my updates directly to your Inbox, you may do so here.

Shall you have any questions about the use of ‘evoke’, ‘invoke’, and ‘provoke’, feel free to leave your question in the Comment section below. Or you simply reply to me if you subscribe to my Weekly Email. There are more posts in my blog that explain the correct use of words such as Cause vs Because. Feel free to browse around! Until then, remember that effective communication helps convey your thoughts and ideas – it helps you help others.

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