Grammar 8 min read

Affect vs. Effect: Easily Choose the Correct Word

Affect and effect are often used interchangeably by people despite the huge difference in their meaning and function.

Affect and effect are often used interchangeably by people despite the huge difference in their meaning and function.

If you’re not sure whether to use affect or effect in your otherwise perfect sentence, you’re not alone.

Get a quick answer on the difference between affect vs effect, plus simple tips for using these words correctly every single time.

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Main Takeaways:

  • Affect commonly means to change and is typically a verb.
  • Effect refers to the results of a change and is usually a noun.
  • Mnemonic devices like RAVEN (remember—affect, verb; effect, noun) can help you remember the difference between these two.
  • Affect and effect are not true homophones, meaning they are not pronounced the same way.

When it comes to words that sound similar but have different meanings, it can be difficult to make the correct choice. In fact, affect and effect are one of the most often mixed-up pairs in the English language.

Fortunately, in the battle of affect vs. effect, there can be a winner. A few basic rules make it easy to use these words to good…well, effect.

What is the Difference Between Affect and Effect?

Although they sound almost identical, affect and effect are distinctly different words with distinctly different meanings. Affect‘s most common meaning, as a verb, is: to change or to impact. Effect‘s most common meaning, as a noun, is: the result of a change.

Think about it this way.

Affect and effect sit on opposite sides of a sentence in the roles of cause and outcome. And, the differences don’t end there because affect and effect can shape-shift into a variety of different forms.

People often confuse themselves with the meaning and function of affect vs effect.
Affect and effect are often used interchangeably by people despite the huge difference in their meaning and function.

Will it Affect or Effect Me? Affect vs Effect in a Nutshell

If you’re wondering whether that winning lottery ticket will have an affect or effect on you, follow this simple guideline to figure it out.

In a nutshell, if something affects an object, the object experiences the effect of that action. One thing causes the other.

Easy, right?

But, if that’s too much of a tongue-twister, just break it down to parts of speech. In common usage, affect is most often a verb, and effect is most often a noun. In other words, there’s no doubt that that winning lottery ticket will definitely affect your life.

Affect vs Effect as Parts of Speech

The simplest way to navigate affect vs effect is by using the parts of speech.

Although it isn’t accurate 100% of the time, parts of speech can be a helpful guideline for choosing the correct word.

If the sentence in question requires a verb, affect is probably the word you’re looking for.

If it’s a noun you need, then effect is most likely the right choice.

Definitions of Affect When Used as a Verb

1. To influence or act upon something, bringing about a response or change.

The storm affected outdoor events across the Midwest.
If I listen to his advice, it may affect my life in ways I can’t begin to imagine.

2. To feign or put on a pretense.

She affected an air of nonchalance, making her family think she didn’t care.
He always affects a British accent when he gets on stage.
People can quickly get
People can quickly get “affected” by what they watch on the television.

3. To touch someone’s feelings.

News of her hospitalization affected us all.
He was deeply affected by the loss of his job.

The Definition of Effect When Used as a Noun

As a noun, effect means a change that happens as a result of an action.

When they worked as a team, Sam and Jim achieved the effect they desired.
She believed that the cause was much less important than the effect.

Exceptions to the Rule

Affect is usually a verb and effect is a noun, and it would be easy if it ended there. But, in the English language, there are always exceptions to the rule.

Affect and effect have several less common forms and meanings, and each of those comes with unique rules for usage.

In fact, here’s where affect vs effect gets tricky and can actually switch places as noun and verb.

When Affect is a Noun

When affect is used as a noun, it refers to an emotion or an emotional response.

The boy’s mother worried about his flat affect after the accident.

When Effect is a Verb

If affect can be a noun, then surely effect can be a verb. Its meaning in this form is to bring about. More often than not, when effect becomes a verb, it’s paired with words like solutions or change.

So, do you affect change or effect change? This is where it gets sticky because technically, either word can be used in this scenario, with different meanings. Instead of conveying the idea of bringing about change, affect would mean impacting existing changes.

Can Affect be an Adjective?

Yes, if you add an -ed. The word affected is the one time affect becomes an adjective, and it can have two distinct meanings.

1. Influenced by an external factor.

The affected area showed extensive storm damage.

2. Artificial or designed to impress.

He wanted to believe she was genuine, but her actions appeared affected and unnatural.

Affective vs. Effective

Get ready for some good news. When choosing between affective and effective, the answer is almost always effective. That is unless you’re a psychologist.

Surprising your loved one with a cake will surely have a positive
Surprising your loved one with a cake will surely have a positive “effect” on him/her.

Meanings and Examples

Although both words are used as adjectives, effective can be used to mean:

  • Producing the desired effect
  • Impressive
  • Optimal
  • Ready for action
The guidelines become effective after the first of the year.
The school needs a more effective attendance policy to keep students from skipping class.

Affective, on the other hand, can mean:

  • Relating to or expressing emotion
  • Influencing emotions or feelings
She used affective gestures when talking about her child.
He suffered from an affective disorder that caused rapid mood swings.

The meanings of affective are generally specific to psychology and emotions. That means that most of the time when choosing between affective and effective, the latter is almost always the word you want.

Getting Personal with Personal Effects

In this commonly used idiom, effects are synonymous with belongings.

I now Pronounce you Affect and Effect

Although some people consider affect and effect to be homophones, their pronunciation isn’t actually identical. If you listen closely, you’ll hear subtle differences.

True homophones are words that sound the same but have different spellings and meanings, such as two, too and to. Affect and effect, when articulated correctly, aren’t the same. Affect is pronounced with more of an “ah” or “uh” sound on the first syllable. Effect has the stronger “eh” sound you’d hear in “bed.”

Affect refers to an action that has to happen for you to get an effect (result).
Is it affect or effect? Don’t be confused. Just remember that affect refers to an action that has to happen for you to get an effect (result).

How do you Remember Affect and Effect?

Remembering how to use affect and effect can be tough, but mnemonic devices can help.

A mnemonic device is a learning technique that makes it easy to retain and retrieve information.

One simple technique uses each word’s first letter as a clue to its meaning.

Think about it this way:

A comes before E in the alphabet. The action affects the effect. Memorizing this brief memory aid can help you remember what word to use so you’ll never confuse affect and effect again.

RAVEN

Another easy mnemonic to use for remembering the common uses of affect and effect is the RAVEN method.

Remember
Affect
Verb
Effect
Noun

Affect vs Effect: A Brief Recap

Affect and effect are soundalike words that can be easily confused. Fortunately, there are several simple ways to choose the correct one.

Common Usage: More often than not, if you need a verb, affect is the word you want. If you need a noun, then effect is most likely correct. Remember: Affect commonly means to change, while effect means the result of a change.

Mnemonic Devices: There are several effective mnemonic devices to help in the battle of affect vs. effect. Probably the simplest is RAVEN, which stands for: remember — affect, verb; effect, noun.

Leading with Letters: Pair the letters in affect and effect with letters of common synonyms to remember the meaning. Affect means to alter, while effect means the end result.

Keep these easy tips in mind and pretty soon your knowledge will affect your writing skills so you can create effective prose without confusion!

Affect vs. Effect Quick Grammar Quiz

Is affect a verb?

Affect is often a verb but you also use it as a noun.
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

Affect can also function as a noun. When used as a noun, affect refers to an emotion or emotional response.

Can you use effect as a verb?

Effect is usually a noun but it can also function as a verb.
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

Effect can be used as a verb, meaning "to cause" or "to bring about." (e.g., You will effect these changes on Friday.)

What's the missing word? "The manager ___________ several changes in the hotel."

Effected means to bring about or cause something to happen
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The correct answer is effected. "The manager effected several changes in the hotel." Effected means to bring about or cause something to happen.

Read More: The Most Difficult Words In The English Language

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