Affect vs. Effect – How to Use Each Correctly

enhancedwriting/ September 2, 2017/ Uncategorized

affect versus effect

What’s the Difference Between Affect and Effect?

Affect and effect have similar pronunciations and definitions. In fact, the two words are very closely related. However, they are different parts of speech so they cannot be used interchangeably.

Affect is a verb. It means to produce a change in.

  • The weather is affecting my mood.

Effect is a noun that means the result of some cause.

  • The effect of better health care is healthier people.

Let’s look at the usage of these two words.

Using Affect in a Sentence

When to use affect: Affect is a verb that means to enact a change or to cause a result. A second meaning of affect is to put on the appearance of or to pretend to be a certain way.

For example,

  • Medicine can affect people’s health in a positive way. (first definition)
  • The student could see how her studying affected her grades. (first definition)
  • The woman sometimes affects a British accent to seem more interesting. (second definition)

The first meaning of affect is especially common in research and in the field of science. The second meaning of affect is less common than the first, but usually appears when describing how a person acts, especially in literature.

Using Effect in a Sentence

When to use effect: Effect is a noun that means the result of something.

For example,

  • The effect of having a healthy diet is living a long life.
  • Going outside more often has had a good effect on her mood.

There are also several idioms and expressions that use the word effect:

  • something to that effect: something like that
    • He didn’t say exactly that I was the worst employee he had ever had, but he did say something to that effect.
  • bystander effect: a phenomenon in which people are less likely to help a victim if there are many other people around
    • The woman was shocked that no one helped her while the mugger was robbing her, until she later learned about the bystander effect.
  • to go into effect: to begin taking action
    • The new liquor laws will go into effect on January first.
  • ripple effect: the continuing impact that one action has on other events
    • Her good deed had a ripple effect. The person she helped decided to help someone else, and that person in turn helped another person, and it continued all day long.
  • take effect: to start functioning
    • This drug will help you eventually, but it takes several days to take effect.

Effect comes from the Latin effectus, which means the carrying out of a task.

Other Uses of Affect and Effect

What I have outlined above is the general difference between these words.

  • Affect is a verb.
  • Effect is a noun.

This gets you by in most scenarios. But what makes these words confusing is both words can actually be both parts of speech. For a more full discussion on affect as a noun and effect as a verb, see here.

Remembering Affect vs. Effect

One way to help you remember the difference between these two words is to use their spelling.

Affect starts with the letter a, just like the verb act on. It also has an a before an e, just like the similar word change.

Effect has no a but does have e, just the synonym result.

Outside Examples

  • Despite the improved nationwide retail sales, U.S. stock indexes finished close to where they started Tuesday as tech companies and household goods makers rose. But weak second-quarter reports from Dick’s Sporting Goods and Advance Auto Parts affected the market. –Houston Chronicle
  • Two bus routes in north Orange County could be significantly affected in the coming days because of a work stoppage at Pomona operations facility according to a statement this morning from Foothill Transit. –OC Register
  • Getting a tattoo could come with a bizarre side effect: It can change the way you sweat, a new study suggests. –New York Post
  • On the first day of January 1954, 812 years after the end of World War II, Democrat Robert F. Wagner Jr. became, in effect, New York City’s first postwar mayor. –New York Daily News

Quiz: Effect vs. Affect

Instructions: Fill in the blank with the correct word, either effect or affect in the correct form.

  1. All the pollution in the air can have a negative ____________ on people’s lungs.
  2. The music always really ______________ my mood.
  3. I assure you I have laid the groundwork for your plan to work. It will merely take some time to take ____________.

See answers below.

Article Summary

Should I use affect or effect? These words sound similar and have related definitions. However, their meanings never overlap, so you need to know when to use each word.

  • Affect is a verb that means to enact a change.
  • Effect is a noun that means result.

Don’t let the similar pronunciations of these two words confuse you into using one when you mean to use the other.


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