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When to Use Affect vs. Effect

If understanding when to use affect or effect has you stumped, click no further. This article is written for you, it may even affect your writing...

Last updated on February 12th, 2024 at 08:17 pm



Affect vs. effect

If two words have earned the superlative for most commonly confused, it’s affect and effect. Stop mixing these words up, and learn their correct use (by reading the rest of this article).



How to use affect vs. effect

Unlike other homonyms, (which are words that sound the same but have distinct meanings and spelling), affect and effect both describe a similar concept; sound almost the exact same and are spelled similarly-ish.

  • Though it has a noun form, affect is mostly used as a verb meaning to to produce a change in somebody/something.

  • Though it has a verb form, effect mostly appears as a noun that refers to the resultant state or outcome (e.g., cause and effect).



The verb “affect”

Affect is a transitive verb that can mean, “to have an impact on (someone or something)”, or something capable of “producing change.” Affect also describes being moved or touched emotionally.

Sentences with the verb affect

An early frost in Florida can affect the orange crop negatively.

Smoking tobacco can permanently affect your lungs, and leads to cancer.

How much a student studies will affect their grade point average.

Raising the minimum wage affects many people living in poverty.

The couple was trying not to let their emotions affect their decision on whether to sell their house or not.

Sentences with affected

The music deeply affected him.

The cold weather affected the crops.

College graduates were affected by the temporary contract workers flooding the job market.

Those living in areas below sea level were most affected by the tsunami.



The noun effect

Effect is usually a noun and object that refers to an outcome of an event or happenstance. Think ‘cause and effect,’ the latter word in the context meaning ‘outcome,’ ‘consequence,’ or ‘result.’ The Brittanica Dictionary describes the meaning of effect as “a change that results when something is done or happens.”

Sentences with the noun effect

We have to give the changes time to take effect.

The  prescribed medication had a positive effect on the patient’s symptoms.

The effects of climate change can be felt worldwide.

A good night’s sleep has a positive effect on your day.

Technology has had a huge effect on our entire world and lives.

Are there  exceptions?

The noun affect refers to a person’s demeanour, or a person’s facial expressions, also known as their affectation. As in, “The young man’s facial expressions had a strange affect.” Affectation carries a slightly more negative connotation, and means “speech or conduct not natural to oneself : an unnatural form of behavior meant especially to impress others.” (Merriam-Webster, affectation.)

For example, a person’s affectation describes “an observable emotional response,” and is commonly used in psychology, “Her affect remained the same despite everyone around her appearing to be in despair.” See the following sentences using affectation as a noun as examples:

1. Theirs was the affectation of respectability; if indeed there be an affectation so honorable.

2. There is a curious affectation about his style-a falsetto note-which, notwithstanding all his efforts to please, is often irritating to the reader.

3. She’s beautiful, truthful, and hilarious, without vanity or affectation, exceptionally clever.

4. In manner he was simple, direct, void of the least affectation, and entirely free from awkwardness, oddity or eccentricity.

5. Juan, it’s not his name, yet to keep calling him the Unconscious Argentinean would be a silly affectation.

The verb version of effect is also less frequently seen, though when it does appear in writing it’s typically followed by the word change. For example, to “effect change,” is to “cause (something) to happen; or bring about.” Again, this is similar to the meaning of effect as a noun, but the distinction is that in its verb form it describes a thing as making something else happen, rather that as a noun where it describes an outcome or end state.

Examples of effect in sentences:

1. We can effect  a new and better society through reform.

2. A dark paint color will have the effect of making the room seem smaller

3. He effected his escape with knotted bedsheets.

4. The temperature reversal effected a major slowdown in the bacterial growth rate.

5. Congress effected changes to the law.

The plural form of the noun is effects, with the added ‘sat the end. This is correctly used to refer to “special effects,” in a movie or film. The plural of effects has the same meaning, and just refers to more in count or quantity of the particular effect being discussed or referenced. The following sentences use the plural form of effect, as in effects:

1. The experiment studied the effects of sleep deprivation on college students.

2. The new rules had many unforeseen effects on contracts.

3. A broad spectrum of lighting effects allows them to offer the most competitive value for lighting in the industry.

4. These distance effects were not understood at the time, or else were referred simply to ordinary induction.

5. The Lombard campaign had produced important effects throughout the rest of Italy.

Effecting used in sentences:

1. My view is that not only is it possible, but that the theatre was one of the most prominent influences in effecting such changes.

2. She may have the courage to give voice to this experience and through voice assert agency, effecting a change in the behaviour of others

3. We compared the efficiency of foraging habit of one of the major pollinators in effecting pollination.

4. But, especially as the century wore on, all sorts of other agents were implicated in effecting the changes under discussion.

5. The language is built around a pure, higher order functional core which is augmented with side effecting capabilities.

Pro Tip!

A mnemonic (to the rescue!) Affect is a verb, which describes an action. A is for = Action. Effect describes an End Result = E (effect) is for End result.

In case the mnemonic mentioned earlier wasn’t enough: Another quick tip on how to remember which words is correct is to think of the acronym or word RAVEN: R = Remember A = Affect is a V = Verb; E = Effect is a N = Noun

If the above mentioned fail, another easy way to identify which is the correct word in the sentence is to note that when the word effect is used as a noun, it almost always follows these words: the, any, an, into, on, take, or. The verb affect does not follow the above words in a sentence.

Origin of the word effect/affect

The word effect derives from the Old French, effet,”execution or completion (of an act).” The word affect derives from the Latin, affectus, meaning “disposition, mood, state of mind or body produced by some external influence.” Its noun form also derives from the same Latin word.

Synonyms for affect

A list of words that share a similar meaning with the word affect:

  • Impact
  • Impress
  • Influence
  • Guide
  • Sway
  • Touch
  • Alter
  • Change
  • Modify

Synonyms for effect

A list of words that have a similar meaning with the word effect:

  • Result
  • Consequence
  • Upshot
  • Outcome
  • Conclusion
  • Reaction
  • End result

Lesson in review

If you’re describing an action, choose affect. If you’re describing the outcome or result of an event or decision, choose effect. Both words can be used as a verb or a noun, but affect is primarily used in sentences as a verb, whereas the word effect is most often a noun.There are exceptions, (which were mentioned previously,) since affect is sometimes used as a noun form, but by and large, the above use is often the correct way to differentiate between affect and effect.


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What’s the difference between they’re, their, and there?

Whose vs who’s?

What’s the difference between invoke and evoke?

Glossary

  1. Definition of affect
  2. Definition of effect
  3. Effect as a verb meaning
  4. Affect as a noun meaning
  5. Effect plural form noun
  6. Effect plural form verb
  7. Sentences using affect
  8. Sentences using affectation
  9. Definition of affectation

Sources

  1. Origin of affect
  2. Affect as a noun meaning
  3. Effect plural form noun
  4. Effect plural form verb
  5. Sentences using effect
  6. Sentences using affect
  7. Sentences using affected

 

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