Affect and effect are two words that can easily be confused.
When generally used, affect is mostly used as a verb, meaning to have an impact on or make a difference to something. While effect is more commonly used as a noun, which is defined as a change or consequence of an action or a cause.
But these are just the basics. There are quite a few intricacies of using affect and effect correctly in a sentence. There are also a few instances where the general usage rules of these words are broken.
Let’s learn the basic guidelines for affect and effect that can help clarify how to use these words correctly.
Difference Between Affect and Effect
Affect vs. effect are both nouns and verbs, and their definitions often overlap. Even people whose first language is English commonly get confused between them, so it’s only normal for others to get completely baffled.
To put it briefly, affect is a verb, and effect is a noun, at least, in the majority of cases you’ll encounter. Let’s consider an example of A and B.
If A affects B, then B experiences the effect of A’s activity. Since A performed an action, that means the use of a verb, in other words, affect. The result or effect of that verb is a noun.
One of the big reasons for the confusion between affect and effect is that they are homonyms, or sound-alike pairs, meaning they sound similar. Write/right, hear/here, and cell/sell are other examples of homonyms.
This makes it difficult to differentiate between the two while talking because of their pronunciation. But when it comes to writing, you can apply a few rules.
How to Correctly Use Affect vs. Effect
The word affect is defined in the dictionary as “to act or produce a change”. An example would be:
- The dry weather affected this year’s crops.
A quick way to check if you’ve used the word correctly is to substitute it with another verb. So let’s say:
- The dry weather ruined this year’s crops.
On the other hand, the word effect is defined as the “result or consequence” of an action. For example:
- He got sunburned as an effect of exposure to the sun.
An easy way to determine if it’s the correct word or if you need to replace it is by replacing the word with another noun. So:
- He got sunburned as a result of exposure to the sun.
Exceptions to the Rule
English is one of those languages where there are exceptions to every rule, no matter how hard someone might try to come up with one. A common example is the “I before E except after C” which has countless exceptions, including science, sufficient, and species.
Even though there are exceptions, if you think of affect as a verb and effect as a noun, you’ll be right most of the time. Regardless, knowing these exceptions and learning how they work is still important.
These are some of the major exceptions.
Affect As a Noun
To confuse things even further, affect can also be a noun that means “the immediate expressions of feelings or emotions”.
But fortunately, the usage of affect in those meanings is practically only used in psychiatry-related content. So if you’re writing on that specific topic or something related to it, then you don’t have to worry too much. Stick to remembering affect as a verb.
Effect As a Verb
Just as affect can appear as a noun in some instances, effect can also be a verb. It means to bring something into being or create change.
- The citizens wanted to effect change in their country’s government.
If affect were used in this context, that would indicate the citizens wanted to “affect change” or impact the changes that were already there. Using effect here means to create change or bring about change.
Effect as a verb could also mean to overcome an obstacle or accomplish something.
- He believed it was his duty to effect the wishes of his father.
As previously stated, affect and effect aren’t commonly used in either of these senses in everyday conversations. Their usage only pops up in very specific contexts or formal writing.
Affected As an Adjective
If you weren’t already scratching your head in confusion before, you’d definitely be doing it after reading that. But yes, it’s true. Affected can be used as an adjective to mean influenced by an external factor or artificial and designed to impress.
- All the buildings in the area were badly affected by the fire.
- The gesture appeared both affected and dramatic.
It’s important to note that in one example, someone or something is affected by a factor, while in the other, someone acts affected.
Never Mistake Them Again
Even if you’re a native English speaker, it can be easy to forget and often confuse the two words. A good solution to getting their differences permanently memorized is by using easy-to-remember mnemonics. Here are a few popular mnemonics you should know:
- Action and Cause
For this one, you must focus on each word’s first letter. So A for affect and E for effect. Now you can memorize that “Affect” starts with an A for Action, which means it’s a verb. For “Effect”, you can skip over from “Cause” to “Effect” with the E.
If the effect one doesn’t work for you, there’s another way of looking at it. You can remember E for “End result” instead. Pick whichever makes more sense to you.
- The RAVEN Method
Another frequently used mnemonic is the “RAVEN” method. If the word you’re looking for is an action word or a verb, then use affect. But if the word isn’t an action word, and it refers to a thing, use effect.
The raven method helps you remember (R) that affect is a verb (AV) and effect is a noun (EN). For example:
- This should positively affect my credit score
- This should have a positive effect on my credit score