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Grammar Lesson: When to Use Effect Vs. Affect

Updated on December 13, 2016
Correct Use of Affect
Correct Use of Affect | Source

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.

Effective Lesson With Lots of Examples!

Quiz: Affect vs. Effect


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    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      rejusrekanta--Yes, you're right. I believe I put that in the hub about relating "affect" to "affection" an emotional state that is "affected." Or something like that. Thanks!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      You're welcome, Patriette. I'm glad that explanation helped.

    • Patriette profile image

      Patriette 5 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Yes, that's clear. And that's a good rule to remember. Thanks again!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Patriette--You would use "effect" if you're using it as a noun in that case, as in "These are the effects of the illness." If you're using it as a verb, use "affect," as in "This is how diabetes affects me." Does that help?

    • Patriette profile image

      Patriette 5 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Victoria Lynn,

      Would I use 'effect' when I am describing the symptoms a medical condition has on me?

      Ty....

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      I'm glad you found my hubpages, too, Patriette. Glad you liked this grammar hub!

    • Patriette profile image

      Patriette 5 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Excellent! I am so glad I found your Hubpage, Victoria Lynn...

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Thanks, htodd. I appreciate that!

    • htodd profile image

      htodd 5 years ago from United States

      That is nice article on "When to use Effect vs Affect"..Great

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      No, PDX, I haven't done a hub re: who vs. whom, but I am going to add that to my list of hubs to yet write! Good idea!

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

      Justin W Price 5 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      affect vs effect, I have not a problem. who vs whom... have you done such a hub?

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Good job on the quiz, MizB! How can we ever know everything, even in our own fields? There's just so much. As an English teacher, I still have to look up certain things from time to time. It's exciting, I guess, to always be learning. Great to see you again. Thanks for the comments and votes!

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 5 years ago

      Yeah! Scored 100% on your quiz. As an editor I thought I knew all about effect and affect, but one day I changed effect to affect on an act. The attorney advised me that in this case "effect" could be properly used. That was when I decided to study up on these two words. Now if we could just get people to stop using the subjunctive mood for the past tense.... Good stuff, Victoria! Up, as usual!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      LeahKam--It can be easy to get confused. There are certain things I feel I should know that I often have to look up, too. There's just so much to know!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      teaches--Don't you worry! I will continue with the grammar hubs and quizzes. Glad they are helpful!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      I know what you mean, Flora. I have more trouble on others, too. Good job!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      random--glad my grammar hubs are helpful! Grammar dork--haha. I call myself a grammar geek. Love it!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Good job, thougtforce! You're an excellent student. Glad I explained it well. I worked hard on that part. Thanks for the votes, Tina!

    • profile image

      LeahKam 5 years ago

      I mess this up on a regular basis. And I'm someone who's paid to the know the difference. Thanks for the guide!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Another great hub! I have bookmarked this one also for future reference. Love your quiz formats after posts which give you a grade after reading. Keep them coming!

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

      I got 100%. Affect/effect has never been a problem for me, but other parts of speech can be.

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Your grammar hubs are always so helpful. Thanks for all of the great information! This is a tough concept, even for those of us who are grammar dorks.

    • thougtforce profile image

      Christina Lornemark 5 years ago from Sweden

      Yes, I did it! 100 %! But I had to think twice before I answered:) Very good hub and you did a great job explaining the difference. I so enjoyed this quiz! voted up, interesting, awesome,

      Tina

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Very good, Ruchira!

    • Ruchira profile image

      Ruchira 5 years ago from United States

      75%..not bad Vicki :)

      hallelujah :))

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Well, Sue, if you stick with effect as a noun and affect as a verb, you will be correct most of the time!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      vocalcoach, yes, you are correct on "effect." Glad you love the quiz! Practice, practice, just like in singing. haha. Thanks for reading!

    • Sue Adams profile image

      Juliette Kando 5 years ago from Andalusia

      I always thought that effect was a noun and affect a verb, simple, now I learn that both words can be either. Interesting.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 5 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      Ah, gee...I failed again. Obviously this had a bad "effect?" on me. Please tell me that is correct. :-)

      Definetely must bookmark this excellent hub and study it often. Love the quizes. Voting up, useful, awesome and interesting. Thanks Victoria.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Way to go on the quiz, Arlene! And thanks for the votes!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Cloverleaf--Glad you say it was well explained. I was having trouble at times making it clear! Did you ace the quiz? :-)

    • profile image

      Arlene V. Poma 5 years ago

      Woweeeee! 100%! I did learn something in college, eh? Voted up and everything else. And bookmarked for the times when I don't have a clue.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      anginwu--Useful--good! Glad you liked the quiz, too!

    • Cloverleaf profile image

      Cloverleaf 5 years ago from Calgary, AB, Canada

      Hi Vicki, well explained! I enjoyed your quiz, too.

    • anglnwu profile image

      anglnwu 5 years ago

      Very useful. Love the quiz as well--helps to reinforce all that you've pointed out. Thanks for sharing.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Cool, homestead. Glad you got something out of it. :-)

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Glad it's useful, Arioch! Thanks so much!

    • homesteadbound profile image

      Cindy Murdoch 5 years ago from Texas

      A great answer to something I have wondered. This was very helpful information.

    • Arioch profile image

      Gordon D Easingwood 5 years ago from Wakefield, United Kingdom

      Very useful hub, keep up the good work

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      haha, Cindy, you're funny. Glad you approve of the hub. Rock the grammar world with me!!!!!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      AA--Wish I could have been there for you in college with this hub. :-) Glad I can be here now. Thanks for being the first to comment!

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Ah, yes, good old "affect" vs. "effect." Great explanations and examples. The quiz was fun, too. :) Rock the grammar world, Vicki!

    • A.A. Zavala profile image

      Augustine A Zavala 5 years ago from Texas

      When I was in college as a psych major, we always had problems using these two words in writing our research papers. We studied both affect and effect, so it was easy to confuse both. Could have really used this when I was in college...