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Affect vs. Effect

What is the Difference Between Affect and Effect?

The difference between affect and effect is one of the most common questions in grammar. In most cases, affect is used as a verb, meaning to impact, and effect is used as a noun for the result of an impact. We can affect something, which in its verb form tells us that it is we who are doing the affecting. But something can leave an effect upon us, with the noun form telling us that effect is a thing and not an action. There are some instances when effect can be used as a verb and affect as a noun, which will be discussed later. While the words are often mixed up in speech and writing, it should be noted that the pronunciation is different. Affect (a-fekt) has a softer ‘a’, like the one in pizza. Effect (e-fekt) stresses the first ‘e’, such as the one in email or easy. While the words are pronounced differently, English speakers will often mix up affect and effect in speech and writing. Indeed, effect and affect have different meanings, although a quirk of language means that people usually understand the speaker or writer’s intention even when they have mixed them up. The verb affect means to change, influence or impact something. The noun effect is the result of something changing. In a way, we can think about the effect as the result of the action of affecting something. Consider this phrase:
  • The effect (result, noun) of too much loud music can affect (influence, verb) your hearing in later life.
Some more examples of the correct usage of effect and affect are shown below: Examples of affect used as a verb:
  • Will John’s illness affect his exam results?
  • The cold winter affected the livestock tremendously.
  • Being poor shouldn’t affect your chances of going to university.
  • Climate change affects us all.
Examples of effect used as a noun:
  • John’s illness did have an effect on his exam performance.
  • The effects of a cold winter left many farmers with reduced livestock.
  • The long-term effect of the government’s policy was that more people went to university.
  • The effects of climate change will be felt by everyone.

When to Use Affect

Affect is most commonly used as a verb and it broadly means to influence, change or impact something. We usually think of affect in the sense of being affected by something or someone:
  • The temperature is affected by cloud cover.
  • My mood is affected by the weather.
  • Sleeping can be affected by caffeine.
  • Leo was affected by the break-up.
You can tell that affect is a verb because these sentences would still make sense when reversed:
  • Cloud cover affects temperature.
  • The weather affects my mood.
  • Caffeine affects sleep.
  • The break-up affected Leo.
It follows that affect should be used when the action of the sentence is the impact, change, influence and so on. Affect can be synonymous with those verbs, yet there are occasions when affect is the appropriate verb to use. For example, when speaking about health, mood or performance (sport or work-related) we often use affect over synonyms like influence and impact.
  • The rain affected my mood. Saying “the rain influenced or impacted my mood” is grammatically correct, but affect is more widely used.
  • A lack of training affects team performances.
  • The new computer system has affected productivity.
  • Smoking affects your lung capacity.
Affect is usually neutral, in the sense it does not have negative or positive connotations. If, for example, we speak of a new coach affecting the performance of a football team, we would need further information to learn if the performance was good or bad. However, affect as a verb can also mean to be moved emotionally. So, if we say something like ‘the loss of his grandmother affected him immensely’, we know that affect has an emotional resonance and, quite often, a negative one.

When to Use Effect

As mentioned earlier, effect is most often used as a noun meaning a change that is a consequence, outcome or result of some particular action or cause. However, as effect is not a physical thing and is often a concept, we can sometimes overlook the fact that it is used as a noun. This is true even though effect as a noun is often preceded by the or an, though sometimes with an adjective in between.
  • The President’s rash decisions left a lasting effect on the markets.
  • The effects of climate change are seen in the Antarctic.
  • Reading has a tremendous effect on young children’s minds.
  • The rain had no effect on their spirits.
Effect also pops up with common words and phrases to do with cinema, broadcasting or theatre production:
  • The movie’s sound effects were stunning.
  • Spielberg is a master of visual effects in cinema.
  • The special effects and make-up are so realistic, even from these seats in the balcony.
And, effect can also be used as an idiom – in effect. This means for all practical purposes or in fact:
  • The brothers were not twins, but in effect, you couldn’t tell the difference between them.
  • In effect, the new taxes will hurt the poorest families.
Affect vs effect

Affect vs Effect: How to Remember the Difference?

Grammar teachers will recommend different tricks to remember the difference between affect and effect. The simplest way to remember is by the letters ‘a’ and ‘e’. Affect as a verb suggests an action is taking place, so we say ‘a’ for action, ‘a’ for affect. Effect as a noun is the end-result of something that has been changed, ‘e’ for end-result, ‘e’ for effect. Another trick is the RAVEN method: Remember Affect Verb Effect Noun.   Effect as a Verb Effect, while generally a noun, can sometimes be used as a verb, specifically with the meaning of accomplishing, producing or changing something. Very often the word change is used in the sentence alongside effect as a verb, which changes the meaning to mean implement or bring about.
  • You must effect these changes by next week.
  • The Chancellor effected many changes in financial policy.
  • The coach clearly effected a change in his quarterback’s attitude.
  • Economic growth can only be effected by the loosening of regulation.

Affect as a Noun

Affect, though typically a verb meaning to influence or impact, can sometimes be used as a noun when referring to a psychological experience of emotions, moods or feelings. It is not very common in everyday language. It is typically used in psychology with an emphasis on an outward emotional state.
  • The man had a happy affect throughout the consultation, laughing and smiling the whole time.
  • Jean had a flat affect during therapy, never smiling or showing any emotion.

Affected as an Adjective

Affected can be used as an adjective to mean artificial or pretentious. Again, it’s not very common in everyday language but often crops up in literature. For example, we might use affected as an adjective when referring to someone speaking with an exaggerated accent.
  • He spoke with an affected French accent, but it is obvious he isn’t from France.
  • His affected social standing was all a lie.
Affected can also be used as an adjective in the sense of being left in an emotional state:
  • The cellist’s performance left the audience visibly affected.
And, it can be used as an adjective to describe something that has been influenced in a harmful manner:
  • Of all countries impacted by climate change, Sri Lanka is the most visibly affected.
Finally, affected can be used as adjective to describe a feeling of affection or gratitude for something:
  • A book much affected by children and young adults.