Affect vs Effect

Two of the most often confused words in the English language are affect and effect.  But once you learn the difference, you’ll master their use.

Affect

Affect is a verb that basically has three different meanings.

1.  To contribute to a change in, or have an influence on:

  • The economy is affected by inflation.
  • The outcome of the elections will affect his decision.
  • What he is doing affects all of us.

2.  To act on the emotions of (i.e., to touch or move):

  • He was sincerely affected by her generosity.
  • I was deeply affected by that documentary.

3.  To simulate:

  • He always affected his peculiarity.
  • She tends to affect a southern accent.

Also, affect is a noun in psychological terms that refers to a “feeling” or an “emotion”:

  • It is difficult to gauge your mother’s moods due to her lack of affect.

Effect

Effect also has predominately three meanings and is typically used as a noun.

1.  Something brought about by something or someone; or a result:

  • I can definitely see the cause and effect of your actions.
  • Daylight savings time will go into effect tomorrow.
  • It will have a huge effect on the outcome.
  • Headaches and nausea are just two of the side effects.
  • What was the effect of his reasoning?

2.  Something that gives a sense or an impression of something else:

  • She did that just for effect.
  • Darker colors tend to give the effect of having a smaller space.
  • The movie’s special effects were incredible.

3.  With reference to belongings:

  • She came with all her personal effects.
  • Do you have all of your personal effects?

Also, to effect is a verb and means to lead to a result or to bring about:

  • That could effect an entirely new way of thinking about it.
  • Is this the best way to effect these changes?
  • Active participation is the best way to effect change.

Rules of Thumb

Typically, any confusion between affect and effect can be resolved when you recognize that affecting something (action) leads to an effect (result).

Therefore, as a general rule of thumb, when you want to use one of these words as a verb, you should probably choose affect.  Whereas, when you want a noun, you should probably choose effect.  Only when the meaning is “to lead to a result or to bring about” is the word effect used as a verb.  The difference between to affect and to effect used as verbs can be seen below:

  • To affect the outcome – To influence or have an impact on the outcome.
  • To effect the outcome – To lead to or bring about the desired outcome.

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One Response to Affect vs Effect

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