I am really confused when efficient and effective appear in a sentence.

I get quite confused about the whole meaning of the sense it pulls of.

  • Welcome to english.se. We generally frown on general reference questions that could be answered by using a dictionary. Also the it in your second question is ambiguous, so it's difficult to know what you are asking. – virmaior Feb 22 '14 at 12:46
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    Related: Is there any difference in meaning between 'efficacy' and 'efficiency'? In fact the answer to that question applies to this one as well. – RegDwigнt Feb 22 '14 at 14:00

Efficient refers to how well one uses one's resources (generally time) to work towards completing a task. Google defines it this way:

  1. (esp. of a system or machine) achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense. "fluorescent lamps are efficient at converting electricity into light"
  2. (of a person) working in a well-organized and competent way. "an efficient administrator"

Effective by contrast refers to the ability to have an effect. In other words, it focuses on whether you accomplish what you set out to accomplish. Google provides the following definitions:

  1. successful in producing a desired or intended result. "effective solutions to environmental problems"
  2. operative "the agreements will be effective from November"

Thus, you can be an efficient campaigner for a politician without being an effective campaigner -- because your efforts do not yield new votes. The former emphasizes that you are working as well as you or anyone could, but the latter asks whether or not you are seeing the desired result.

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  • I agree with your definition of each term, but I disagree that you can be efficient without being effective. If your work is not having the desired effect then you can't claim to be efficient because you are spending resources on effort which does not yield the required result. – Arkanon Feb 22 '14 at 16:39
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    @user1515834 You can execute a task efficiently but not effectively if you execute the task using few resources but in a way that doesn't give the desired results for reasons outside the scope of the task itself. – David Schwartz Feb 22 '14 at 17:38
  • It probably depends on the specific task and how efficiency is being measures. If efficiency is measured as the ratio of results to cost, and you have no results, you're not very efficient no matter how few resources you use. – Barmar Feb 23 '14 at 5:55

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