Affect & Effect: When Do You Use Each Word?


In the English language, there is a difference between affect vs effect

Like most people, you probably think it’s pretty easy to tell which one to use. After all, “affect” sounds like action. And “effect” sounds like something that happens to something else.

So it seems logical that “affect” would be used when talking about things that happen to someone or something like a disease. 

On the other hand, “effect” would be used when you’re talking about the result of those actions, for example, having a cure for a disease.

But both have multiple meanings in English grammar, and when it comes too much at once, it can be hard to keep track of what’s what.

So it’s essential to understand the difference between “affect” and “effect” because they do not mean the same thing. But unfortunately, these words are often misused, even by professional writers.

To help you out, here are some guidelines for when to use each word:

Affect as a verb

Affect is usually a verb, and it means to influence or change.

To affect something is to influence it. For example, you can affect your behaviour or how someone else reacts to you by doing something, such as changing your appearance or personality.

For example, if you were trying to convince your friend that it was a good idea for you two to go on a road trip together, you might “affect” them by showing them pictures of the places where you want to go and telling them about how much fun it would be for both of you.

If we look at the word’s root in Latin: “affectus” means “to do,” but this word also has some negative connotations because it’s also related to emotion. 

An emotionally upset person might be said to have an “affected” expression on their face (that is, they look like they are faking emotion).

Effect as a verb

Effect can be used as a verb, but it’s rare. For example, if you ever see “to effect,” it means “to bring about.” but you can also use it to tell “to bring about through,” as in, “She effected changes at the company.”

For example, “The new law will effect many changes in the prison system.”

It can also be used as an adjective, but this use is rarer still. Instead, people often use it to describe something created artificially, like a “synthetic effect.”

Affect as a noun

When used as a noun, affect is “an emotional state that is expressed in behaviour.” It can also mean “a change in the expression of an emotion.”

Effect as a noun

Effect is usually a noun. It is derived from the Latin verb efficere (meaning “to bring about”), so that’s where we get our English definition.

It can be the result of something, but it can also be an impression or a consequence of something else.

For example: “The new law affected my mood.” “My mood was affected by the new law.”

It is also used to describe how something looks or sounds.

For example: “The effect of the red shirt on the boy’s skin tone is striking.”

Methods to Use to Remember The Proper Usage of Affect vs. Effect

It’s a common misconception that affect and effect are interchangeable, but they’re two very different words.

To help you out there are three methods you can use to help you figure out when to use them correctly.

Action and End Result

You can use affect to describe the action of something, and you can use effect to describe the result of that action.

So, for example, if you’re trying to tell your friend how to get somewhere, you’d say, “Turn left at the third stoplight.” So that would be an affect—the action of turning left.

But then when your friend arrives at their destination (the effect), you could say: “Wow! You made it all the way here!”

The RAVEN Method

The RAVEN method is quick and easy to figure out which word to use when writing.

Here’s how it works: every time you want to use either word in your writing, ask yourself these three questions:

  • Does this word refer to something internal (affect) or external (effect)?
  • Is this an action (affect) or a result (effect)?
  • Does it happen over time (affect) or all at once (effect)?

If you can answer yes to all three questions, then your sentence is correct. If not, try again.

Accident and Emergency

You know how it works: driving along, and a car accident happens. You’re not sure what happened, but suddenly you’ve got to get to the emergency room.

This is a prime example of the difference between “affect” and “effect.” So when you’re Affected by an Accident, the effect is an Emergency.

“Affect” is used when something happens to someone or something else, while “effect” is used when something happens within an object or person.

To further explain, when you’re affected by something, you are influenced or impacted by it. For example: “The news affected me deeply” or “The movie affected us all.”

When you have an effect on something or someone, it means that you have a direct impact on them. For example: “The accident had an effect on her life,” “My actions had a positive effect on our relationship,” or “I wanted to have an effect on the world with my work.”

Final Thoughts

There are a lot of words that are easy to mix up, but affect and effect are two of the most common. Like most people, you’ve probably made this mistake at some point.

Even native English speakers make this mistake, so don’t feel bad if this is something that has happened to you before.

Now that you’ve learned the difference between affect and effect and have a better understanding of when to use each word, it’s time to put your new knowledge to good use.

Whether you’re writing an essay, making a presentation, or just chatting with friends, you can use this information to ensure your writing is as clear and concise as possible.

Remember: affect means “to influence” or “to cause change” in something else. Effect means “a result.”


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