Affect vs. Effect: Quick tips to know the difference

It's common to confuse these two words, but this guide will help.

Many beginning and intermediate writers struggle with the proper use of the words affect and effect. It’s not unusual to hear them misused, especially when speaking or writing quickly.

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The difference between affect and effect is that affect is most often used as a verb, when you are impacting something; while effect is typically a noun, indicating the cause. 

Understanding the difference between affect and effect can help improve your writing skills overall, as well as help you avoid potentially embarrassing mistakes in the future.

When to use each word

One of the main differences between affect and effect is their role in a sentence. The word effect is generally used as a noun, meaning an influence that produces a change. Affect is generally used as a verb, meaning to act upon or to produce an effect on. However, there are some exceptions to these rules, which we’ll cover in a bit.

Definition of Affect

Affect is a verb. If something affects you, it has an impact on you. The word affect can also be used as a noun, meaning an emotional response or reaction to something. When we use effect in place of affect, it usually means there’s been some sort of physical change rather than an emotional one.

Using Affect in a sentence

  • Climate change affected our seasonal harvest. Here, it is used as a verb denoting change.
  • I was affected by seeing her again so soon. In this case, it is a noun that explains an emotional reaction.

Definition of Effect

When used as a noun, effect refers to a result or outcome. In other words, an effect is something that occurs after an action or event. For example, we may say the hurricane had disastrous effects on coastal areas to refer to the destruction that followed after a hurricane made landfall.

Using Effect in a sentence

  • I love coffee. It has a positive effect on my day. This sentence uses effect as an adjective.
  • They didn't understand what the effect would be.  In this case, effect is now used as a noun.

Are there exceptions?

A few exceptions do exist, mostly when different verb and tense types are added into the mix. Also, certain colloquial saying prefer one word over the other, even if grammatically the usage may be a gray area.

  • He wanted to effect change. In this instance, even though effect is being used as a verb it is still correct.
  • When he entered the room, her lovely affect faded. In this instance, affect is a noun referring to a visual element.

Context is incredibly important for keeping these two words straight. When reading, try and pay attention to what is happening around the words to help you identify what the meaning is. Then, when writing, read sentences with these words aloud. This practice can help you catch mistakes before publishing.

Conclusion

Using affect vs. using effect can be a confusing issue, but once you understand their meanings and applications, it will become easier to get them right.

To sum up, affect is generally used as a verb (affecting/affected) and indicates that something changed someone’s mental state. Effect is generally used as a noun (the effect) or adjective (an effective treatment) and indicates that something brought about change to someone or something else.

Hopefully this article will help you become a more effective writer!

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