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What Is the Difference Between Affect and Effect?

MH Bonham is an award-winning author and editor. Bonham is also the author of more than 50 books as well as thousands of articles.

Affect vs effect

Affect vs effect

Effect or Affect?

The words affect and effect are often confused in the English language. Even native English speakers use the two words incorrectly. It's difficult because both sound similar and both can be used as nouns and verbs.

Both words come into English from Latin through Old French. Despite the similarities between the two words, the etymology is different. Hence the reason why affect and effect have different usages and different meanings in English.

Etymology of Affect

Affect comes the from Latin verb, afficere, meaning to influence. It entered English through Old French from the Norman Conquest. By the Middle Ages, affect meant to infect or to attack.

Affect also has a second source in Latin that came from Old French. The Latin verb, affectare, means to aspire to, to desire, or to aim at. It eventually came to mean to make pretense of.

However, this is where the etymology gets interesting. Affect also comes from the Latin noun, affectus, meaning a disposition or mood that is caused by external influences.

Which is it??

Which is it??

Etymology of Effect

The word effect has a similarly convoluted etymology to affect. It comes into English by way of French as well from a Latin word. In Latin, the noun is effectus, meaning a performance or accomplishment. It gradually came to mean the completion of something or execution. By the late 1400s, it grew to mean the ability to produce an intended result. By the 1500s, the word shifted to mean a result, consequence, or purpose.

However, effect also came to mean something perceived as real, thus creating the word that we use when we say sound effects or stage effects.

To make effect even more confusing, as a verb, effect comes from the Latin word efficere, meaning to accomplish, similar to the noun. It grew to mean to produce as an intended result.

Many people get confused by the two words

Many people get confused by the two words

General Difference Between Affect and Effect

The general difference between affect and effect is that affect is most often used as a verb and effect is often used as a noun. However, affect can be used as a noun occasionally and effect can be used as a verb. The etymology of each gives you an idea of how the words can be used as nouns and verbs.

Affect as a Verb

When using the word affect as a verb, it means to act on something, to change or alter something. It can also be used to describe a change in a mental state. Examples of using affect as a verb:

  • The hurricane didn't affect the coastline, but went out to sea.
  • His father's death affected him deeply.

Affect as a Noun

When using affect as a noun, it describes a particular mental state rather than an action. It is used often in psychology in describing someone's emotional state. For example:

  • His affect was gloomy after his favorite football team lost.
  • Buying her lunch and talking about her problems improved her affect considerably.

Effect as a Noun

When using the word effect as a noun, it means a result, consequence, or cause. It may also refer to the ability to change something or influence it. It may also describe something perceived. Examples of these are:

  • The effect of the hurricane was catastrophic.
  • He pushed on the boulder, but his efforts had little effect.
  • I love going to movies for their special effects.
This article should help you avoid misusing the two words!

This article should help you avoid misusing the two words!

Effect as a Verb

Effect can be used as a verb to mean something that changes something or accomplishes something. A few examples of this are:

  • The dark lord effected the final stage of his evil plan.
  • Sally's new ideas effected the company's change from start-up to a mid-sized corporation.

Improper Use of Affect and Effect

Many people use affect and effect improperly. Here are some examples of improper usage of the word.

  • That movie effected me and I thought about it all day. (Should be affected instead of effected.)
  • That special affect was something. (Should be effect for affect.)
  • I don't know why that effected the dog; he shouldn't bark. (Should be affected instead of effected.)
  • Her effect was rather sad. (Should be affect.)
  • How did that effect you? (Should be affect.)

© 2018 MH Bonham


MH Bonham (author) from Missoula, Montana on September 26, 2018:

Thank you! Glad you liked it!

Tajwer Shakir on September 26, 2018:

Very well written and explained ma'am! And I scored 7/10 in your quiz too!