Affect vs. effect: how to quickly tell the difference

Out of all the confusing words in English, affect vs. effect are amongst the most puzzling. Many people have trouble telling them apart because of their similar spelling and pronunciation, but, once you know their differences, they are actually quite easy to tell apart.

What is the Difference Between Affect and Effect?

Today, I want to go over the differences between these two words and give you a few ways to remember their differences.

After reading this post, you shouldn’t ever have to second-guess yourself as to the correct use of these words, “Should I use effect or affect?”

Affect vs. Effect: How to Quickly Tell the Difference

When to Use Affect

What does affect mean? Affect vs. Effect: How to Quickly Tell the DifferenceAffect is both a noun and a verb, but it is almost always used as a verb, meaning, “to influence, change or alter.” For example,

  • This game will affect our standings in the league.
  • The argument affected their marriage deeply.
  • The riskier issue, though, is when philanthropists donate too heartily to a social change organization without thinking through how that donation could affect that group. –The New York Times

Affect has a specialized meaning in psychology as a noun, “feeling or emotion, especially as manifested by facial expression or body language.” For example,

  • After giving the patient the preliminary dosage, he described his affect as flat.

This is a technical term for which there is no need in everyday language. There is very little chance that this usage would ever make it into your writing, unless you happen to be studying psychology.

The AP Stylebook gives some great advice on using “affect” as a noun: avoid it if possible. Unless you must use “affect” as a noun, i.e., you are a psychiatrist, you should try to avoid it. It leads to too much unnecessary confusion.

See a similar discussion with the word adjective affective here.

When to Use Effect

What does effect mean? EffectAffect vs. Effect: How to Quickly Tell the Difference is also both a noun and a verb, but it is almost always used as a noun, meaning, “outcome, result.” For example,

  • The effect was overwhelming.
  • The politician misrepresented the effect of his policies.
  • These effects were nowhere near as distracting as the moving seats. –New York Post

Effect can also be used as a verb meaning “to make happen, produce, cause.” For example,

  • Over my tenure, I effected many changes around the company.
  • Tax cut proponents hope to effect economic growth.

“Effect” as a verb is not as common as “effect” as a noun, but it is still quite common, so you should be familiar with it.

Tricks to Remember the Difference

Affect vs. Effect: How to Quickly Tell the Difference

First, determine if the usage calls for a noun or verb.
Second, if the sentence calls for a verb, the word you want is almost always “affect,” meaning to influence or alter.

  • The sunshine _______ my mood.
  • The sunshine affects my mood.

Third, if the sentence calls for a noun, the word you want is almost always “effect,” meaning outcome or result.

  • The ______ of studying is getting better grades.
  • The effect of studying is getting better grades.

You can usually tell if a noun is needed by whether or not an article precedes it, such as “a,” “an,” and “the.” In our above sentence, “the” precedes “effect,” signaling that a noun is necessary.

Remember that both of these words can function as nouns and verbs, so this trick is not foolproof. There will be some cases where you cannot simply say, “affect is a verb and effect is a noun.” But this trick will get you by most of the time.

Summary

Is it affect or effect? Of course, that depends on your intended meaning. Affect and effect can both be used as either nouns or verbs.

  • Affect is almost always a verb, and using it as a noun should be avoided.
  • Effect is almost always a noun and is sometimes used as a verb.

Affect vs. Effect

Affect vs. Effect: How to Quickly Tell the Difference

Among the pairs of words writers often confuse, affect and effect might be the most perplexing, perhaps because their meanings are so similar. Affect, derived from affectus, from the Latin word afficere, “to do something to, act on,” is easily conflated with effect, borrowed from Anglo-French, ultimately stemming from the Latin word effectus, from efficere, “to bring about.”

What’s the difference between affect and effect?

Affect is usually a verb, meaning to influence or act upon. Example:

The loss of his father affected him profoundly.

Effect is usually a noun, meaning the result of an action. Example:

What will be the effect of closing Main Street?

Below you will find less common meanings and related or derivative words.

Affect

  • The various senses of affect, each followed by a sentence demonstrating them, follow:
  • A noun meaning “mental state”: “In his report, the psychiatrist, noting his lack of expression or other signs of emotion, described his affect as flat.”
  • A verb meaning “to produce an effect, to influence”: “I knew that my opinion would affect her choice, so I deliberately withheld it.”
  • A verb meaning “to pretend” or “to put on”: “She tried to affect an air of nonchalance, though she was visibly agitated.”
  • Words with affect as the root, followed by their use in a sentence, include the following:
  • Affectation: A noun meaning “self-conscious behavior”: “The girl’s affectation of sophisticated maturity was undercut by the relentless snapping of her chewing gum.”
  • Affection: A noun meaning “kind or loving emotion”: “Her grandfather’s deep affection for her was obvious in his heartwarming smile.”

Disaffected: An adjective meaning “discontented, rebellious”: “Disaffected youth dismayed by the poor job market and the larger issue of a society that does not seem to value them have been joining the protest movement in ever greater numbers.” (This word is a case of an antonym that has outlived the original term from which it was derived in counterpoint; writers and speakers no longer express, in the sense of “favorably disposed,” that a person is affected.)

Unaffected: An adjective with two distinct senses: the literal meaning of “not influenced or altered” (“They seemed disturbingly unaffected by the tragic news”) and the surprisingly older, figurative meaning “genuine” (“The youth’s candid, unaffected demeanor appealed to her after the stilted arrogance of her many suitors”).

Effect

  1. The various senses of effect, each followed by a sentence demonstrating them, follow:
  2. A noun meaning “the result of a cause”: “The effect of the lopsided vote was a loss of confidence in the chairman.”
  3. A noun meaning “an impression”: “The soft, gentle tone has a calming effect.”
  4. A noun, usually in plural form, meaning “personal property, possession”: “Among the effects found in the deceased man’s pockets was a small book with his name self-inscribed.”
  5. A verb meaning “to accomplish”: “His newfound sense of responsibility effected a positive change in her attitude toward him.”
  6. Words with effect as the root, followed by their use in a sentence, include the following:
  7. Aftereffect: A noun, usually in plural form, meaning “something that follows a cause”: “The aftereffects of the decision are still being felt years later.”
  8. Effective: An adjective meaning “successful”: “The insect repellent was effective at keeping the mosquitoes at bay, which made for a pleasant outing.”
  9. Effectual: An adjective meaning “able to produce a desired effect”: “Our conclusion is that mediation is an effectual strategy for obtaining a mutually satisfying outcome.”
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Affect vs. Effect: What’s the Difference?

Affect vs. Effect: How to Quickly Tell the DifferenceNicole Fornabaio/rd.com

It’s so often the case in the English language that two words sound similar, or have similar meanings, to the point where even skilled native speakers use one when they mean the other.

And while there are scores of words and phrases everyone confuses, “affect” versus “effect” is a particularly confusing situation. There’s just one letter’s difference between them, and most people pronounce them exactly the same.

The fact that they mean pretty much the same thing—they both describe change—makes matters even more confusing. So what’s the real difference between affect vs. effect, and when should you use each?

Affect vs. effect: Parts of speech

The difference between affect vs. effect lies in the parts of speech. “Effect” is a noun meaning “a result or consequence.” For instance, you could correctly say, “The effects of climate change can be felt worldwide” and “This medicine may have some side effects.

” “Affect,” meanwhile, is a verb that means “to act on in a way that produces a change.” “Affect” can have both positive and negative connotations: “Praise from a teacher can affect students’ performance in the class.” “Pulling a muscle affected my sports performance.

”  Either way, though, “affect” is a verb that must be used with an object, per dictionary.com. So you don’t just “affect,” you “affect” something or someone.

So something can affect you, and it can also have an effect on you. They really do mean virtually the same thing, so the meaning is not the issue; the issue is making sure you’re using them as the correct parts of speech.

One way to keep affect vs. effect straight is to remember that “affect” starts with “A,” and so does “action,” so “affect” is an action word (a verb). You can see why affect vs.

effect is one of the homophone pairs people confuse all the time.

Other uses of “effect”

affect vs. effect on Vocabulary.com

Choosing between affect and effect can be scary. Think of Edgar Allan Poe and his RAVEN: Remember Affect Verb Effect Noun. You can't affect the creepy poem by reading it, but you can enjoy the effect of a talking bird.

In everyday speech, affect is a verb. It means to influence something, such as in the headline from the Albuquerque News,

Downed Power Line Affects PNM Customers

The downed power line had an impact on some power customers: they were without electricity overnight.

Effect is most commonly used as a noun meaning the result or impact of something, an outcome. If there's “a/an/the” in front of it, it's an effect. The second sentence is from a story about the outcome of long-term sleeping trouble,

The Effect of Persistent Sleepiness

Adding to the confusion, effect can also be used as a verb to mean to produce or to cause to come into being. Here's an example that uses it correctly,

A government unable to effect any change is a government that will produce no surprises.

Put another way, a government that can't produce change won't be able to produce surprises; it will be predictable.

Most of the time, you'll want affect as a verb meaning to influence something and effect for the something that was influenced.

The difference between affect and effect is so slippery that people have started using “impact” as a verb instead.

Don't be one of them! Another trick is to remember that affect comes first alphabetically, and an action (to affect) has to occur before you can have a result (an effect).

Affect vs. Effect

Affect and effect are easy to mix up. Here’s the short version of how to use affect vs. effect. Affect is usually a verb, and it means to impact or change. Effect is usually a noun, an effect is the result of a change. Watch out! There are certain situations and fixed phrases that break the general usage rules for these words.

Now that the basics are out of the way, the time has come to learn the intricacies of how to use affect and effect effectively. Or is it affectively? If you’re lucky, it may well be a little bit of both. (For the curious, effective would mean successful in this context. And when it comes to grammar, success is the goal.)

Here’s a tip: Want to make sure your writing always looks great? Grammarly can save you from misspellings, grammatical and punctuation mistakes, and other writing issues on all your favorite websites.

Confused about affect and effect?

Grammarly can help with that.

Get Grammarly

The Difference Between Affect and Effect

Is it affect or effect? In a nutshell, affect is a verb and effect is a noun. At least (spoiler alert!), most of the time. In the majority of cases, you’ll encounter the words as these parts of speech.

So, if A affects B, B experiences the effect of A’s action.

Huh?

Imagine Ruby (A) pushes Raphael (B) into a pond. Ruby affects where Raphael is standing. Raphael being wet is the effect of Ruby’s irresistible urge to push him into a pond.

Because Ruby performed an action, that signals the use of a verb: affect. The result, or effect, of that verb is “wetness,” a noun that is probably causing Raphael a whole lot of discomfort.

Affect vs. Effect: Use The Correct Word Every Time

Both of these words are verbs and nouns and their meanings overlap. Very confusing! This slippery duo can send even experienced writers into a spiral of uncertainty. Especially, since many people pronounce them in almost the exact same way.

Here’s a basic guideline for affect vs effect: Generally, we use affect as a verb (an action word) and effect as a noun (an object word).

What does affect mean?

The verb affect means “to act on; produce an effect or change in” as in, “the cold weather affected the crops,” (it produced a change in the crops … probably killing them).

It can also mean “to impress the mind or move the feelings of,” as in “The music deeply affected him,” (the music changed his feelings or thoughts). So, when you’re looking to use one of these two terms to express an action, chances are you’re looking for affect.

If you can substitute affect with another verb, you’ll know you’re using the right word: “The cold weather damaged the crop.” “The music deeply moved him.”

What does effect mean?

Effect is most commonly used as a noun, meaning “result” or “consequence.” So, when you’re writing, try to swap out effect for result and see if it makes sense.

 For example, “his sunburn was an effect of exposure to the sun.” His sunburn was a result of exposure to the sun.

Effect might also catch you off guard because it appears in two common idioms: in effect, and take effect.

How will I remember the difference?

There’s one trick to help you use the right word in almost every case: the word raven.R = Remember
A = Affect is
V = a Verb
E = Effect is
N = a Noun

What caused all the confusion?

Want to go deep? Much of the confusion surrounding this pair is due to a shared linguistic ancestor. Both words have roots in the Latin verb facere meaning “to do, make.” Affect derives from the Latin verb afficere meaning “to do something to, to have influence on.” Effect descends from the Latin verb efficere, “to make, carry out.”

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Sticking to the basic guideline of effect as a noun and affect as a verb will generally keep you in the clear.

What about the exceptions?

Less frequently, affect can be used as a noun to describe emotion in a psychological context. Example: “A sad affect may be a symptom of depression.” Affectionate is a related term with the same root word as affect.

Effect can also be a verb meaning “make happen,” but that use is less common. Example: “She effected her test score by studying hard.” The phrase effect change relies on this verb.

Here’s hoping this article effects change in all our vocabularies!

Want more word fun? Sign up for Dictionary.com right in your inbox!

Affect vs. Effect: Use the Right Word in a Sentence

Affect and effect belong to that tricky family of words known as homophones. That means they sound the same but have different meanings and spellings. Other commonly confused homophones are two/to/too, accept/except, and there/their/they're. For now, let's tackle the problem of affect vs. effect – and how to use the right word in a sentence.

girl waking up happy in the morning

In order to understand when to choose affect vs. effect, let's take a look at each of their meanings.

  • Affect (verb) means to produce a change or influence something.
  • Effect (noun) indicates an event whereby a change has occurred.

There is an easy way to remember when to use affect and effect: A is for action (affect); E is for end result (effect). But to fully understand a word's meaning, it helps to see it in action. Let's dig a little deeper into the grammar rules governing these words with some tips and examples.

Affect

1. Affect is almost always used as a verb. Use it to mean to influence someone or something, rather than cause something.

  • How does the crime rate affect hiring levels by local police forces?
  • These weather conditions will affect the number of people who'll come to the county fair.

2. Affect can be used as a noun in one particular situation: when referring to a display of emotion.

  • The young man's facial expressions had a flat affect.
  • The woman took the news of her husband's death with little affect.

Effect

1. Effect is most often used as a noun. It points toward an event or a thing. It's often used when an end result is being discussed.

  • What effect did the loss have on the team?
  • Did his leaving have any effect on you?

2. Effect can follow these words: the, any, an, into, on, take, or. (Affect cannot.)

  • The prescribed medication had an effect on the patient's symptoms.
  • We have to give the changes time to take effect.

3. Effect can be used as a verb in one particular situation. It can be used to mean to accomplish something or to cause something to happen.

  • The new manager is bound to effect positive changes in the office.
  • All this rain will effect a great harvest.

Affect and Effect in Sentences

Are you starting to feel more comfortable with using affect vs. effect? Read through these affect vs. effect example sentences for an even clearer picture of the difference between affect and effect..

Using affect in a sentence:

  • An early frost in Florida can affect the orange crop negatively.
  • One employee's negativity can affect all the workers.
  • Colorado was affected by severe flooding last summer.
  • Not winning didn't affect her as much as I thought it would.
  • Your opinions do not affect my decision to move abroad.
  • Smoking tobacco can adversely affect your lungs and blood flow.
  • Her memoirs affected me so deeply I was brought to tears.
  • Television can negatively affect young, developing minds.
  • Hugs can affect a person's immune system in a positive way.
  • Congress will pass a law that will greatly affect the economy.
  • The rising crime rate in that area will affect the housing market.
  • How much a student studies will affect his grade point average.
  • Reducing our carbon footprint will affect the environment.
  • Petting a cat or a dog is known to affect blood pressure in a positive manner.
  • Raising the minimum wage affects many people living in poverty.
  • Movies have the power to affect people's thinking.
  • Positive beliefs affect the healing time of patients recovering from surgery.
  • Going to war will affect everyone in the country.
  • That teacher affected my self-image and helped me believe in myself.
  • What a moving eulogy. Did it affect you, too?

Using effect in a sentence:

  • Transportation costs have a direct effect on the cost of retail goods.
  • The effect of the medicine on her illness was surprisingly fast.
  • The new law prohibiting texting while driving will go into effect tomorrow.
  • Graffiti added a negative effect to the aesthetics of a neighborhood.
  • How fast you drive will have an effect on your gas mileage.
  • I have no idea what effect this new diet will have.
  • A dark paint color will have the effect of making the room seem smaller.
  • One of the side effects of this particular drug is blurred vision.
  • The special effects in movies today are aided by computers.
  • The speech had an effect on increasing attendance.
  • The effect of her singing off-key was apparent on people's faces.
  • Will seeing a film about car crashes have an effect on teenagers?
  • News broadcasts can have a huge effect on public opinion.
  • The nose job will have an effect on her appearance, but at what cost?
  • A good night's sleep has a positive effect on your day.
  • Creepy music in a movie gives the effect that something is about to happen.
  • Two effects of her promotion were a raise in salary and a new office.
  • How will I tell if the medication has taken effect?
  • Complex carbohydrates will have an effect on your athletic performance.
  • The horror movie had a bad effect on her.

How Will You Know Which Word to Choose?

Knowing whether to use affect or effect can be confusing, but we hope you'll now be able to make the right choice moving forward. When in doubt, consider whether you're expressing action. If so, you'll probably need to use the verb affect. If you're talking about an event that has caused change, you'll want to use the noun effect.

If there's one thing the English language excels at, it's producing exceptions to every rule. This holds true for the affect vs. effect grammar rules. But, starting with the part of speech (verb or noun) is a safe place to begin the battle between the two.

Affect vs. Effect: How to Use the Right Word Every Time

Written by Scribendi

Examining Affect and Effect

Are you unsure about whether to use affect or effect? Do you find yourself simply guessing which of these words to use in a given sentence? You're not alone. Remembering the difference between affect and effect is especially confusing because both words have very similar pronunciations, in addition to having very similar meanings.

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Here's a sentence that uses both words correctly: “The cold weather affected the crops; the effect of the cold weather was a lower yield.”

If you find yourself scratching your head unable to discern the difference between affect and effect in the above sentence, never fear! This article will explain when to use each word and provide examples to help you remember which word to use.

If you're curious to learn about other commonly confused words, check out Scribendi's Guide to Commonly Confused Words, which lists over 350 of these tricky terms.

The Quick Definitions: Affect vs. Effect

AffectAffect is a verb that means to influence something or, in relation to human behavior, to put on an act. As a noun, it has a definition specific to the field of psychology (a subjective emotion demonstrated through someone's actions). 

Effect: Effect is a noun that means an outcome or result. It is also a verb that means “to make happen.”

When to Use Affect

Affect is most commonly used in the transitive verb form (i.e., X affects Y). To affect something means that you are exerting an influence on it somehow—that is, you are changing it in some way. This usage of the word affect is pervasive in the English language and is synonymous with to have an effect on.

However, affect has another definition (also as a transitive verb): to put on a display or a pretense. This sense of the word pertains to deceptive human behavior, such as affecting

Grammar 101

When do you use effect or affect (or in past tense, affected or effected)? Affect v effect are easy to get confused. Affect is usually a verb, and it means to impact or change.

Effect, on the other hand, is usually a noun that you would use to indicate the result of a change. Because “affect” and “effect” are homophones (words that sound alike), they are often confused.

We’ll share some easy tips on telling them apart.

Is a verb: A word or phrase that describes an action, condition, or experience.

Effect

Is a noun: A word that refers to a person, place, thing, event, substance, or quality.

Make a difference to; bring about change; touch the feelings of; move emotionally.

Effect

A change which is a result or consequence of an action or other cause.

Could also mean (synonyms): Result, consequence, outcome, reaction, ramifications.

Believe

The synonyms for this word include: Influence, have an effect on, sway, modify, alter, touch, stir.

  • How do cigarettes affect my brain?
  • Age-related changes in organs, tissues and other parts of your body can affect how you respond or react to medicines.
  • Throughout the performance, a number of audience members were visibly affected, brought to tears by the reality of the tale.
  • Global warming is projected to have a number of effects on the ocean.
  • He resigned with immediate effect.
  • A good diet had a positive effect on their health.
  • What are the effects of smoking on the lungs?

Reference: Cambridge Dictionary

Affect vs. effect

Affect and effect are two of the most commonly confused homophones in the English language.

Homophones are words that are pronounced in the same way but are spelled differently and have different meanings.

We will examine the definitions of the commonly confused words affect and effect, their proper use, some help in avoiding a mix-up between the two words, and some examples of that use in sentences.

The word affect is used in three different ways. The most common use of the word affect is as a verb to mean to change or to influence something or to make a difference to something.

For instance, one may act on a past mistake in order to affect it, or one may affect the stock market by trading an inordinate amount of shares. A bully will affect his victim, bad habits will negatively affect your health, and your nose is affected by pollen.

Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that occurs in the fall and winter, attributed to the lack of sunlight. Occasionally, the word affect is used as a verb to mean to pretend to feel a certain emotion, to project certain feelings or to use an item or assume a certain behavior in order to impress someone.

In both of these definitions, affect is a transitive verb. Related words are affects, affected, affecting, the noun form is affectation. Finally, to make things more confusing, the word affect is used as a noun when employed as a term in psychology, to mean the emotion a subject is displaying.

The determination of someone’s affect may depend on his facial expression, the tone of his voice and the degree of eye contact. Someone who is displays a flat affect may be depressed, schizophrenic or a have a traumatic brain injury.

The word effect is used in several different ways. Almost always, effect is used as a noun to mean a result or consequence. This usage is obvious in the phrase cause and effect, which means the result or consequence of an action or situation. Effect is also used as a noun in the term personal effects, which means the items that are owned by a particular person.

The term personal effects is often used when discussing the disposition of possessions after someone’s death. A special effect is a camera trick or illusion used in film or television.Very occasionally one may see the use of the word effect as a verb to mean to bring about change, usually in the phrase effect change. Related words are effects, effected, effecting.

You will avoid confusion when using affect or effect if you remember this: the most common use of the word affect is as a verb meaning to change or influence something, and the most common use of the word effect is as a noun that is the change or result that is brought about. Identify the parts of speech when making a word choice between affect and effect. Affect causes effect.

A mnemonic device that may help you to remember the correct meaning of these two commonly misused words and avoid being incorrect, is that the action is the affect and the end result is the effect. Note that both action and affect begin with the letter a, and both end and effect begin with the letter e. Learning English involves incorporating the correct grammar in your writing.

  •  Examples
  • The storm knocked down power lines, affecting several thousand people in rural communities. [CBC]
  • Adrian, born Adrian Adolph Greenberg, affected a French name and Continental manners, but he was sure to be found out by a true Frenchwoman. (Vanity Fair)
  • Daum noted that during a two-hour interview with Vonachen, a lack of emotion shown by the teen, which he called a “flat affect,” surprised him. (The Hutchinson News)
  • Gauging the disaster’s effect requires assessing economic activity that might be lost. [Wall Street Journal]

Plenty of footballers do use their income to effect change, notably African players working in their home countries. [Independent (U.K.)]

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