Affect and Effect

The Quick Answer
What is the difference between effect and affect?
  • Effect. Effect is a noun. Effect means outcome, consequence, or appearance.
  • To Affect. To affect is a verb. To affect means to transform or to change.

Affect and Effect

There is often confusion over the words effect and affect. In order to understand which to use, you must know the difference between a noun and a verb.

Effect is a noun. Affect is a verb. (If you're not confident with spotting nouns and verbs, there are some workarounds below to help.)

Effect

Effect is a noun meaning outcome, consequence, or appearance. For example:
  • What effect did your reprimand have?
  • That is a nice effect.

Affect

To affect is a verb meaning to transform or to change. For example:
  • Did the cold affect you?
  • Do not use low-fat milk. It will affect the taste.
Try the Substitution Trick

A Little Trick To Spot Effect

The word effect has several meanings. It can mean outcome, consequence, or appearance. Try using one of these instead of effect. If the sentence still makes sense, then effect is almost certainly correct.

(This trick works because effect is a noun, just like the words outcome, consequence, and appearance.)

A Little Trick To Spot Affect

Try using the verb to transform (in its various forms, e.g., transforming, transformed, transforms) instead of affect. If the sentence still makes sense, then affect is almost certainly correct. However, if you find yourself trying to use transformation, then you should be using effect because both are nouns.

(This trick works because to transform is a verb, just like to affect. )

Example Sentences with Effect and Affect

Here are some example sentences with effect and affect.

Example 1:
  • What effect did foot-and-mouth disease have on your business?
  • (The word effect is a noun.)
Tip: Try substituting the noun effect with the noun consequence to confirm that it's a noun.

Substitution Test: "What consequence did foot-and-mouth disease have on your business?"
(As this sounds okay, effect must be correct.)


Example 2:
  • Did foot-and-mouth disease affect your business?
  • (The word affect is a verb.)
Tip: Try substituting the verb affect with the verb transform to confirm that it's a verb.

Substitution Test: "Did foot-and-mouth disease transform your business?"
(As this sounds okay, affect must be correct.)


Example 3:
  • Do not allow this incident to effect your decision.
Tip: Do the substitution test.

Substitution Test: "Do not allow this incident to consequence your decision."
(As this is nonsense, effect must be wrong.)

The Other Substitution Test: "Do not allow this incident to transform your decision."
(As this sounds okay, affect must be correct.)
  • Do not allow this incident to affect your decision.
Note: Sometimes, the noun-substitution test won't work with consequence because effect is quite a versatile word. You might have to try other nouns, e.g., appearance. If you find yourself trying to use this word as a verb (e.g., appear, appears), then you should be using affect not effect.

Affecting and Affected

There should be no confusion with affecting or affected. These are always verbs (well, nearly always - see the "sidebox" section).

See Also

adverse or averse? appraise or apprise? 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? tenant or tenet? who's or whose? advice or advise?
What are nouns? What are verbs? List of easily confused words