Affect vs. Effect: How to Know the Difference

Text that say Affect vs Effect

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Have you ever tried to talk about “change” in English? If so, you’ve probably run into issues involving affect vs. effect

The two words sound nearly identical. They’re spelling only differs by one letter. As a result, things can get confusing when you’re speaking, reading, or writing. 

While they have different definitions, their meanings are related, which only adds to the confusion. 

Fortunately, there are a few ways to learn the differences between affect and effect. In this guide, we will look at the meanings of both words and how they are used. Finally, we will look at example sentences and some useful tricks to remember how to use them. So, let’s get started!

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‘Affect vs. Effect’:

What’s the difference between affect and effect?

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Affect Meaning

We’ll start with affect, as it usually functions as a verb. This makes it a little easier to use. However, it does have different definitions based on the context:

  • Definition 1 – (verb) – To have an effect on something.
  • Definition 2 – (verb) – To have an emotional effect on someone.
  • Definition 3 – (noun) – An emotion that can influence behavior.

Now that you know the meanings of affect, let’s see how to use it in a sentence. For example:

  • Example of Definition 1 – (verb) – Construction can affect the flow of traffic.
  • Example of Definition 2 – (verb) – She was deeply affected by the poem.
  • Example of Definition 3 – (noun) – The patient displayed no affect in response to the doctor’s questions.

As you can see, the first two definitions are similar. However, the second definition of affect always refers to a strong emotional effect on a person. The third definition of affect (as a noun) is less common and is almost always used in a medical or psychological context. As a result, it is far more common to use affect as a verb.

Effect Meaning

Next, let’s take a look at effect, which can get a little more complicated. Though it usually functions as a noun, effect can also be a verb. Let’s look at how “effect” changes based on context:

  • Definition 1 – (noun) – A change as a result of an action.
  • Definition 2 – (noun) – Lighting, sounds, or physical props used in a movie or television show.
  • Definition 3 – (verb) – To cause something to occur, often with difficulty or against great odds.

Now, let’s see how to use effect with all of its definitions. For example:

  • Example of Definition 1 – (noun) – The medication had an immediate effect on his condition.
  • Example of Definition 2 – (noun) – The movie director used effects to create a whole new world.
  • Example of Definition 3 – (verb) – We all want to effect change in the world.

As you can see, all three definitions are very different. Even if you ignore the confusion between affect and effect, it can be difficult to figure out how to use effect on its own. Nonetheless, each word should be used in particular situations.

When to Use Affect vs. Effect

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First, let’s look at the simple difference between affect and effect. Affect is usually used as a verb, while effect is usually used as a noun. So, if you want to talk about change occurring as an action, you should probably use affect. For example:

  • Adding sugar to food affects the flavor.
  • The soldier was affected by the horrors of war.
  • The teacher’s speech really affected her students.
  • Diet and exercise affect your health.
  • The weather was affecting his mood.

Alternatively, if you want to talk about change as the result of an action, you should probably use effect (as a noun). For example:

  • My work has an effect on thousands of people.
  • No one anticipated the negative effects of the surgery.
  • One effect of the campaign was greater voter turnout.
  • I tend to have that effect on people.
  • The test had a positive effect on my grade.

Illustration of a man with a shirt that says "Affect" and a speech bubble over his head saying "I'm usually a verb... an action", another man stands next to him with a shirt that says "effect" and a speech bubble that says "What are you doing? You don't have any effect on me!"

How to Use Effect as a Verb

You can use effect as a verb in a sentence when you need to discuss certain specific actions. Generally, effect (as a verb) means “to cause something to occur or come into being.” For example:

  • The government wants to effect a new world order.
  • I could not effect change in his attitude.
  • We effected an end to the argument.
  • Congress tries to effect the will of the people.
  • The father wanted to effect change in his son’s behavior.

As you can see, effect (as a verb) is often a synonym for “accomplish” and is frequently used with the word “change.” 

Other Ways to Use Effect

In addition to the examples above, effect is commonly used as part of different phrases. For example:

  • Cause and effect – The relationship between a starting point or action (cause) and the end result (effect).
    • When heat is added to water, it comes to a boil; this is a cause and effect relationship.
  • In effect – In summary.
    • In effect, the experiment was a success.
  • Go into effect – To begin; to execute an action or operation at a specific time.
    • The law will go into effect on January 1st.
  •  Put into effect – To enact something.
    • The politicians tried to put the new budget into effect.
  • To that effect – Having a specific purpose or meaning.
    • He didn’t want to publicize information to that effect.
  • To no effect – With no results; to no avail.
    • She tried to persuade her mother to no effect.
  • Special effects – Tricks used in filmmaking to create imagined events.
    • The director needed a special effects expert to create a fake explosion.

Tricks to Remember the Difference Between Affect and Effect

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One trick that people use to remember the difference between affect and effect is the acronym RAVEN:

  • R – Remember,
  • A – Affect is a
  • V – Verb, while
  • E – Effect is a
  • N – Noun

Naturally, this trick is not without fault. 

As mentioned above, affect is not always a verb and effect is not always a noun. As a result, RAVEN won’t always be helpful.

That said, you can expect RAVEN to work in most situations. Affect only functions as a noun in certain medical or psychiatric contexts, while effect is a less common replacement for “accomplish” as a verb. The most common example of effect as a verb is “to effect change.”

Pronouncing Affect vs. Effect

Though Americans (and many other native English speakers) pronounce them the same, some people choose to emphasize the first syllable to show which word they are using. 

For instance, most native English speakers use a “u” sound (like in the word cup) for the first syllable of both affect and effect. 

Alternatively, you can use an “a” sound (like in the word cat) for affect and an “e” sound (like in the word pet) for effect. Sometimes, you might even hear someone use the long “ee” sound (like in the word meet) at the beginning of effect, though this is less common.

Listening to how the word is pronounced can help you distinguish between affect and effect in spoken English. 

If you use different pronunciations for each word when you speak, it can even help you remember their differences. Generally speaking, you can remember that you need to use an “a” sound when it’s a verb and an “e” sound when it’s a noun. Additionally, Stressing the first syllable can also help you remember, though it may sound a little unnatural. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, differentiating between affect and effect is relatively simple in most cases. 

Fortunately, there are various ways to remember their most common differences. However, it gets more complex when these words are used in less common ways. As a result, you’ll simply have to memorize their varied meanings! 

Nonetheless, if you study the definitions and examples above, you’ll be using affect and effect correctly with ease! Above all, we hope you found this overview of affect vs. effect useful! And if you’re interested in learning other English grammar topics and speaking with other learners like yourself, our starter’s offer includes interactive exercises along with unlimited automatic feedback.