Affect or Effect?

by Craig Shrives

The Difference between "Affect" and "Effect"

  • "Affect" means to change. It is a verb.
  • "Effect" means a result. It is a noun.

Affect

"Affect" means to change, to have an impact on, or to transform. For example:
  • I want to affect the vote.
  • (This means "I want to change the vote.")
In this example, notice that "affect" is written with "to" in front. This tells us that "affect" is a verb. As it's a verb, the following versions are also possible: "affects," "affecting," "affected," and "affect" (without "to" in front).

Effect

"Effect" means a result, a consequence, or an appearance. For example:
  • I want to create an effect the world will remember.
  • (This means "I want to create a result the world will remember.")
In this example, "effect" is written with "an" in front. "Effect" is usually preceded by an article (i.e., "a" "an" or "the"). This tells us that "effect" is a noun. As it's a noun, the only other possible version is the plural "effects."
affect or effect?

Top Tip

  • Use "effect" if the word before is "an" or "the."
This tip works because "effect" is a noun, and only nouns can be preceded by "a," "an," and "the." Verbs can't.

More Example Sentences with "Affect"

Remember that "affect" is a verb meaning to change, to have an impact on, or to transform. For example:
  • Do not use low-fat milk. It will affect the taste.
  • (It will change the taste.)
  • Did the cold affect you?
  • (Did the cold have an impact on you?)
  • Mark's experiences in Africa affected his outlook on life.
  • (Mark's experiences in Africa transformed his outlook on life.)
Put simply, "to affect something" means "to change something."

More Example Sentences with "Effect"

Remember that "effect" means result, outcome, consequence, or appearance. For example:
  • Your lectures had an immediate positive effect.
  • (Here, "effect" means result.)
  • The effect of your work is apparent.
  • ("Effect" means outcome.)
  • Did the reprimand have any effect?
  • ("Effect" means consequence.)
  • You must be pleased with the effect you've created.
  • ("Effect" means appearance.)
Put simply, "an effect" means "a result."

A Trick To Spot "Effect" and "Affect"

affect or effect?
If you're ensure whether to use a version of "affect" or "effect," replace it with the word "consequence." If your sentence still makes sense, then use "effect."

This trick works because – just like "effect" – "consequence" is a noun. There is no verb version of "consequence." In other words, you cannot say "they consequence," "he consequenced," "she consequences," or "we are consequencing."

So, if the noun "consequence" works in your sentence, use the noun "effect" ("effects" for plural).

Let's try some examples:

Example 1:

  • What effect/affect did the drought have on your business?
Apply the trick: Use "consequence."
  • What consequence did the drought have on your business?
  • (This sounds okay, so "effect" is correct.)
  • What effect did the drought have on your business?

Example 2:

  • Did the drought effect/affect your business?
Apply the trick: Use "consequence."
  • Did the drought consequence your business?
  • (This sounds wrong, so "effect" is wrong.)
  • Did the drought affect your business?

Example 3:

  • This incident is effecting/affecting your decision.
Apply the trick: Use "consequence."
  • This incident is consequence your decision.
  • (This sounds wrong, so "effect" is wrong.)
  • This incident is affecting your decision.
  • (Once you know "effect" is wrong, you must then use the correct version of "affect." In this case, "affecting."
Get it? Here is a quick test to help you practise this tip:

It's Not That Simple Unfortunately

Most of this page is dedicated to telling you that "effect" is a noun and "affect" is a verb. That is an appropriate starting point for learning about the difference between "effect" and "affect," but unfortunately it is not always true. Be aware that "effect" can be a verb, and "affect" can be a noun.

The Verb "To Effect"

"To effect" as a verb is fairly rare, but it is useful in business writing. It means "to bring into being." For example:
  • We will effect the new law on Monday.
  • The new policy will be effected as soon as the paper is signed.

The Noun "Affect"

The noun "affect" is extremely rare. It is used in psychology to describe a subjective feeling caused by a thought or other stimulus. It is similar to mood or emotion and carries a connotation of there being external physical signs. For example:
  • The patient displayed an unusual affect when questioned.

Ready for the Test?

A Video Summary

Here is a short video summarizing the difference between "affect" and "effect."

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See Also

adverse or averse? Ms., Miss, or Mrs? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? who's or whose? advice or advise? lasagna or lasagne? List of easily confused words

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