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What is the Difference Between Affect and Effect?

Affect and effect often confuse due to their similar sound and meaning. Affect is typically a verb, meaning to influence or change something. Effect, on the other hand, is usually a noun, signifying the result of a change. Understanding their roles in a sentence ensures clear communication. How can mastering these terms enhance your writing skills?
Brendan McGuigan
Brendan McGuigan

Affect and effect have similar meanings and similar pronunciations, making it sometimes difficult to know which one to use. Generally speaking, people can tell the difference by looking at what grammatical role the word is playing: affect is almost always used as a verb, while effect is usually used as a noun. Some people also use tricks to help them remember, like mnemonics. There are also several exceptions to the common uses of affect and effect, mainly in the context of psychology.

Common Uses of Affect

Affect is sometimes used as a noun, as in saying someone has a flat affect.
Affect is sometimes used as a noun, as in saying someone has a flat affect.

Affect is primarily used as a verb. It has two main meanings, which are closely related. Most commonly, it means to influence someone or something in either a physical or psychological way, as in "The painting affected him so deeply he could not speak," or "The dam breaking affected the water level downstream." It can also mean to pretend to feel or think something, such as "She affected an interest in art," or "He affected to understand what she was saying, even though he was actually confused."

Common Uses of Effect

The word effect is used primarily as a noun. It has a number of related meanings, but generally speaking, it refers to the result of something, the power something might have to get a specific result, or a natural phenomenon. For example, "The effect of the election was a new balance of power" suggests a direct result, while "The effect of the painting on him was to inspire his own work" focuses on the power needed to make something happen. Phenomena are often also referred to as effects, such as "the photoelectric effect" or "the greenhouse effect."

Exceptions for Affect

Affect is rarely used as a noun, usually in the context of psychology or sociology. In this case, a person's affect is his or her mood or mental state. Having a lack of emotion, called a flat affect, is actually a symptom of several mental conditions, including schizophrenia. Even more rarely, affect is used archaically as a word for an affectation someone might take on — a pose, or disposition, such as "Her affect was one of learning and grace, but those of us who knew her knew better." In both of these cases, the emphasis is on appearance: what type of mood a person appears to be in, and the way a person appears to behave, even though his or her real feelings or personality may be different.

Exceptions for Effect

Effect is occasionally used as a verb as well, usually to refer to something directly causing something else. Grammatically, it takes an object and often has an "-ed" ending added. For example, a person could say "The election at last effected the change the people had been hoping for," using effect as a verb to mean "caused." This use is somewhat more common than the noun uses of affect, but is still much less common than effect's normal use as a noun.

Avoiding Errors

Since affect and effect generally stick to specific grammatical roles, readers can often know which one to choose by identifying the word's purpose in a sentence. Some people also use mnemonic devices to help them remember, like that a verb is an action word, and both action and affect begin with the letter "a". One of the most commonly made errors is substituting effecting or effected for affecting and affected, since the difference between them is subtle: the first means to directly cause something, while the second means to have an influence on something. When the intent is unclear, choosing affect as a verb is much more likely to be correct.

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Discussion Comments


@anon986116 -- Then you are extremely lucky. Most students aren't. And you can believe me when I say I know what I'm talking about.


Listen amypollick. Grammar teachers do teach proper grammar. I am in fifth grade and our teacher is the best I have ever had in my life!


I don't really understand why so many people mix affect and effect up.

Being a Portuguese(BR) speaker does make things easier for me, because the Portuguese words meaning affect/effect are similar to the English ones. They also begin with 'a' and 'e', but are very distinct from one another (mainly because of how pt-BR verbs are conjugated): "afetar" (verb), "efeito" (noun).

Nonetheless, the number of people who mistake the two is disturbing. Perhaps I'm focusing too much on mistakes made by those, like myself, who aren't native English speakers and are bound to make mistakes, but whether these people have English as a first language or not, I can't really tell.


anon296821: Manuela, you are indeed correct. The word they should have used is "effect." Also, if you transcribed it exactly, "tornados" is also a misspelled word. The correct spelling is "tornadoes."

Good catch on the effect/affect usage!


The Literacy Navigator Program book Level D Foundations on Extreme Weather suggests, among others, this quickwrite to my students: "Affect of these events (tornados) on our society today." In my opinion, the use of "affect" is incorrect. I need a grammarian to confirm this for me. Thank you very much. Manuela


@anon249838: In this sentence, you can say "Exercise has good results for the body," using "results" instead. Since "results" makes sense and is a noun, then you know you need to use "effect," since you're looking for a noun for that sentence, and "effect" is generally the noun. "Affect" is a verb.


Which one should I use: "Exercise has a good effect or affect on the muscles?"


The document will take affect/effect in January?


Is this correct?

"She was affected by her husband leaving her because it effected her eating habits."


anon151179: In your current sentence, the correct answer is "effect". The pill will not have an *effect* on you. However, if you change the sentence around a little, you'd say "This pill will not *affect* my ability to drive home." "Effect" is quite often used as a noun, while "Affect" is quite often used as a verb. Both words can be used as either nouns or verbs, however, which is why it's so confusing.


Affect means to -Have an effect on. So if you're not sure on which word to use in a sentence, try filling in the sentence with "Have an effect on". And if the sentence makes sense then the correct word to use is "affect." If not, then the correct word is "effect."

Ex. Heavy snows will ___"Have an effect on"___ the first crops this winter.

"Have an effect on" fits into this sentence, therefore the correct word to use is affect!

Ex. We shall never know the full __"Have an effect on"___ of the drink.

In this sentence "Have an effect on" doesn't make any sense, therefore the correct word would be effect!

Generally speaking, this will work 99 percent of the time.



this pill won't have an affect/effect on me?


"The election at last effected the change the people had been hoping for."

Just asking, not criticizing! The aforementioned sentence appears in the effect/affect application article. Should this sentence be stated so as to not leave a preposition hanging?

Consequently, The election at last effected the change for which the people had been hoping.


Remember: To affect something, causes an effect. Simple~


My belief was that affect was used if there was emotion being displayed as in affection or an act of feeling was being described.

Effect is simply an effect on something or someone.


These two have got to be the most confusing of the entire English language, and yes this helped, but I am still not certain. basically I use effect.


Thanks, this was a huge help. I kept getting confused by which word to use where.-futuremrsstyles


supposedly the history of these two words are some people spelled it "effect" while others spelled it "affect." Therefore, technically, either word will suffice in either context.

It was only later a rule was drawn up to differentiate between the two words, though in all honesty, the meaning is so unclear, students as well as teachers become lost in their meanings.


@anon122792: I agree with you. This is just my personal opinion, but I think it's because teachers do not have time to really teach good grammar any longer. So often, they find themselves having to "teach the test" (as in standardized tests) because that is how their students, and by extension, they will be judged.

A good English teacher will make sure his/her students have the basics in hand and this means building a good grammar foundation.

I'm something of a grammar nut myself, and this routinely drives me bananas.


I seem to see this one confused much more now than I ever did in years past. Does anyone know why?


The article is excellent, however a few key things should be noted to those who are slightly confused:

"To effect" (vb.): "To bring about"

"To affect" (vb.): "To influence" (Although there are other meanings)

Personally, I find this comes in handy, whenever I need to determine which to use.


There's another one! Bowel/bowl - but not a homonym this time. Bowel rhymes with towel and growl and bowl is what you do on a green, or what you put your greens in.


Is this correct: "We sing about the things that are effecting us in present and that have affected us in the past.?


Unless you are going to be using the archaic version of effect (in which case you are better versed in its usage than I) try replacing 'affect' with 'change' and 'effect' with 'result' and see which fits better. It's not a perfect swap but gives a good indication of which to use.

e.g. The election resulted (effected vb.) removal of the labor government. The result (effected n.) of the painting on him was profound. The election changed (affected vb.) the course of history.


@Anon80485: No one ever said English was required to make *sense."

However, the sentence "The sun has an effect on weather" is correct because, in this sense, "effect" is an abstract noun -- a "thing."

"The pollen affects my sinuses" is very clear because no other word *but* "affect" could possibly be the verb, and a sentence must have a subject and a verb to be a sentence. In the above, "pollen" is the subject, "affect" the verb. "The" is an article acting as an adjective modifying "pollen." "Sinuses" is the direct object and "my" is technically a possessive pronoun that is acting as an adjective in this case (describing the particular sinuses in question).

I don't know if that clears it up, but if you think of "effect" as an abstract, not a concrete noun, it makes it easier, I think. A chair, for instance, is a concrete noun. It has shape and form. "Love" is an abstract noun. It's a thing, but has no definable form. Make sense?


Clear as mud! When I use the old standard "A verb is an action word and a noun is a person, place or thing," none of your sentences using the two make much sense!


Sometimes it is better to have a rule even if there are exceptions - because if you stick to a simple rule you may get it wrong occasionally - you will get it right most of the time.

RAVEN is a useful mnemonic.

I also like the explanation that affect refers to influence but effect implies change.

The party leaders' debate may affect the outcome of the election.

The effect of the election is the party that has won the most seats forms the next government.


OK. How would this one go? This price will go into affect/effect on tuesday.


Try explaining this to an American, mind you there is no "u" to take out so you should be OK!


Thank you!


This is so useful! Thank you!


Who came up with the idea of these two words? I hate the English language. I'm moving to Canada! Oh wait.


I have mastered other similar sounding homonyms such as two/to/too, there/their/they're and your/you're but effect/affect remain a mystery to me. Thanks anyway.


No, this still doesn't work for me. Your first example feels instinctively wrong. The 'how will the election...' Affect looks entirely out of place there like suddenly finding a wombat in your mouth in place of a tooth.

If 'The poison took effect' then surely you're 'effected' by it. Affected just almost looks wrong and verb/noun doesn't seem to clear up all the cases.


Thanks a lot! finally i understand it.

affect describes the reaction of a situation and effect talks about the outcome of a situation.


You helped me a lot, they were really confusing words, now cleared. thanks a lot. B.Khan


thanks. Now it's clear.


Thanks for this. I always had confusion between these two words.


The people are affected by flood.

Effects of the flood are destructive.


I give my thanks for this article. I too often confused the two.


I'm looking for a good source to explain this to some friends. This is pretty good, but the first paragraph uses "affect" in the broader definition of affect -- you can't use the word in its own definition.


All those special effects! but I wasn't affected!


Thank you so much for this. I was trying to explain the difference to a friend, but couldn't figure out how to put it into words. You helped a ton.


What determines whether to say/write "In behalf of..." or "On behalf of..."?


I've read many papers where people use affect instead of effect. It seems to be a very pervasive problem, because I've seen it in academic papers. Consider for example:

"It is not clear what the affect of using certain drugs is."


you should use "affected by the change"


I am having trouble deciphering the riddle of Affect/Effect in this context: "I will send e-mail to all the users affected/effected by the change to their accounts."


I like tacos with chicken, however, it has an effect on my bowl movements. Thank you.


To be fair, affect/effect is easier to get wrong than it's/its.


thanks for this info...i find that a lot of people mix affect and effect up! also, it's and its. that drives me crazy!!! and they're and their. i could go on and on!


Your high school teacher did you no favors as Effect is also a verb - meaning to bring about or cause to happen!


My high school english teacher gave us this to remember it by (RAVEN)


Affect is a


Effect is a


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    • Affect is sometimes used as a noun, as in saying someone has a flat affect.
      By: Forgiss
      Affect is sometimes used as a noun, as in saying someone has a flat affect.