Grammar Lesson: When to Use Effect Vs. Affect
Do I Use "Affect" or "Effect"?
Deciding when to use “affect” versus “effect” is confusing to most people. Which word is the noun? Which is the verb? The interesting thing is that both "effect" and "affect" can be used as nouns and verbs, which makes their usage even more confusing and hard to keep straight.
Most of the time “effect” is used as a noun to basically mean "result." “Affect” is used as a verb most of the time to mean "to influence."
Sample sentences would be:
Her apology had a calming effect. (the result of the apology)
Her apology positively affected the status of the relationship. (how the apology influenced the relationship)
More About Effect
"Effect" is a noun when used to talk about results, such as in "the effect the tornado had on the town." When in doubt, choose "effect" over "affect" if the word functions as a noun in the sentence.
"Effect," as a verb, means to cause something to happen, as in a politician hoping that he can "effect change," or cause change.
Other examples of "effect" as a noun:
- What effect do you think the new coach will have on team morale? (result)
- The effect of the hurricane on the town's livelihood was immense. (result)
Examples of "effect" as a verb:
- The new coach hoped to effect an improved morale for the team. (cause a result)
- How do you think the new boss will effect the changes he wants? (cause a result)
More About Affect
"Affect" as a verb refers to how something influences, or affects, someone, as in "His harsh words affected her deeply." "Affect" is almost always used as a verb, so keep that in mind. When in doubt whether to use "affect" or "effect," choose "affect" if the word acts as a verb.
"Affect" is used as a noun in the sentence, "Unemotional as always, the man had a flat affect." (referring to facial expression)
Other examples of "affect" as a verb:
- How is her parents' advice affecting her decisions? (influencing)
- I hope that my staying up late doesn't affect how I do on the test. (influence)
Other example of "affect" as a noun:
I'm only giving you one example of this use of "affect," as the word is not used very often in this capacity. When it is, it is also pronounced differently, with the stress on the first syllable instead of the second.
- His flat affect after the tragedy disturbed his family. (emotional status)
How to Remember the Difference Between Affect and Effect
Okay, so now you have a basic explanation of the differences between "affect" and "effect" and when to use them. As far as remembering when to use which, one thing that might help is that the word "affect" begins with "a," and is a part of the word "affection." Think of the word "affect" referring more to emotions or things that can be influenced or changed.
As opposed to the emotional aspect of "affect," "effect" focuses on the more factual "results." Think of "effect" starting with an "e" such as "example" does. Examples are more concrete than are emotions. An example, result, or "effect," is more factual and less emotional than something that just "influences," or "affects," something. Influences are up and down, affecting emotions, thus "affect." Results don't just influence results; they accomplish them.
If you need further help remembering, relate "affect" to emotion by thinking of adjectives reflecting to emotions that being with "a": angry, afraid, addled, and whatever other adjectives (another "a" word is adjective!) you can get in your head to help you remember that the "a" word generally relates to emotions.
Even the adjective forms of these words follow this loose "rule" that I've made up as a way of remembering when to use "effect" or "affect." Check out these examples:
An affective disorder would refer to an emotional state.
Being effective refers to results, which are measurable facts.
This method of remembering when to use "affect" versus "effect" has worked for me. Maybe it will help you, too. Or perhaps you have a different way to remember?
Sample Paragraph With Different Uses of "Affect" and "Effect"
I wondered how his apology would affect their relationship. I knew that he was trying to effect a new understanding between them. Would he have a positive effect on her? When I saw her with a glowing affect, I knew that his efforts had been effective, unless she was merely suffering from seasonal affective disorder!
Whether the above paragraph helps to clarify which word to use or confuses the issue more, just remember this:
When you need a verb, choose "affect." When you need a noun, choose "effect." You will be correct most of the time.