Effect vs Affect: A Guide To Their Correct Usage

Confusion generally emanates from a lack of knowledge & understanding. In any natural language, confusions surrounding phonetically and orthographically/ morphologically similar words with different meanings are commonplace. The prevalence of such confusion is higher among young learners, particularly at the elementary level.

In the English language, one specific pair of words that stupefy many students is effect & affect. Unfortunately, the differences between effect and affect are quite slim from both structural and phonetic aspects, and therein lies the source of all the confusion. In many cases, confusions surrounding the meaning & application of both words lead to silly mistakes.

This write-up intends to help readers resolve their uncertainties surrounding affect and effect, once and for all.

Effect vs Affect: Why and How Are They Different?

So, what is the main difference between affect and effect?

  • The primary difference between effect and affect is that the former is a noun while the latter is a verb.
  • Readers should remember that verbs carry action or transform referring expressions such as noun phrases. Affect, thus, impacts nouns and their surrogates as a verb. Effect functions as a noun that refers to the result of some action or event.

Understanding this fundamental difference can help readers determine when to use affect and effect better.

  • Affect can either mean “to influence” or “to act as a result of some influence” or even “to act in a way other than what one feels."

Effect signifies the result of something.

  • Effect and affect are pronounced differently, but they do sound similar to a lot of people.

Effect is pronounced [ih-fekt]; it almost sounds as if it has an I-sound at the beginning.

The pronunciation of affect has an A-sound at the start; [uh-fekt] is the pronunciation.

Some Examples

The difference between effect and affect can be understood better with some examples.

As stated, affect functions as a verb and means “to influence." Here are some examples.

  1. Affected by climate change, deforestation and other detrimental activities, thousands of species are now on the verge of extinction.

  2. Stress and tension affect the human body in more ways than one.

 Effect generally functions as a noun, though there are certain exceptional cases. In its conventional noun form, effect means results or consequences.

  1. The effect of climate change will be devastating on human society and the Earth's ecology.
  2. The effect of the Carolina Reaper, the world's hottest chilli reaper (around 2 million Scoville Units), on my mouth was catastrophic.

Affect As a Noun! (an exceptional case)

Affect can act like a noun in some instances. For example, affect is used as a noun in psychology, which means "the mood that someone appears to have.”

E.g.:

His cheerful affect belied his inner anguish.

Effect As A Verb! (the exceptional case)

In occasional cases, effect serves as a verb, whence it means “to bring about” or “to accomplish” something.

E.g.:

For years, animals raised as livestock have been fed various chemicals and concoctions to effect faster growth.

There are particular techniques to determine whether effect and affect are functioning as a verb or noun.

Meta-cognitive Strategies

There's an easy way to understand whether effect functions as a verb or noun in a sentence.

Look for whether there is an infinitive or the “to be” form of effect. When effect is used as a verb, it commonly appears in its infinitive or “to..” form. If not, then it’s functioning as a noun.

E.g.:

Scientists and environmentalists hope better education will help raise better awareness about climate change and motivate people to effect positive changes in their behavior, actions and lifestyles.

 The ‘A, An, The’ Test

To determine whether to use affect or effect, contemplate inserting an article in front of the word concerned. Then, if the sentence still makes sense, its grammatical construction requires a noun, and effect might be the right choice.

Grammar exercises are a great way to imbibe and apply all of the above points better.

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Effect vs Affect Grammar Exercises 

Here are some exercises for readers to solve. (Try to get them done without peeking at the solutions!)

Here are some exercises for readers to solve. (Try to get them done without peeking at the solutions!)

  • The artist’s latest works were (affected/effected) by the changing political situation.
  • Some medications may have a detrimental (affect/effect) on the digestive and nervous systems.
  • The actor (affected/effected) has an Irish accent.
  • A strict curfew is currently in (affect/effect).
  • Recent research has studied how rock music (affects/effects) cognitive faculties.
  • Computers are (affecting/effecting) the way we live.
  • The new supervisor (affected/effected) a drastic change in the company’s stringent absentee policy.
  • The time clock at work went into (affect/effect) from the very next day itself.
  • The legislature thinks, in (affect/effect), the new seat belt laws are essential.
  • Sociologists think that TV will (affect/effect) children negatively.
  • The __________ of the wise man’s words on the child’s life was profound.
  • Scott was amazed that his new book could __________ people so profoundly.
  • Meditation had a notable  __________ on Mandy's general behavior.
  • Pat realized his criticism had no __________ on his subordinate’s poor work.
  • The coach's pep talk before the big game was very __________ (effective or affective).
  • Paul’s harsh words didn't __________ Shawn as much as he had expected.
  • The president couldn't __________ a new policy without Congress's consent.
  • His coach’s wise words had great __________ on Tim's career.
  • Chris was curious how the crime rate __________ed employment in the neighborhood.
  • The bright-yellow walls of the room had a positive affect/effect on my mood.
  • Reading Helen Keller’s autobiography _____ me personally.
  • Severe droughts will certainly affect/effect cultivation in the upcoming years.
  • How do you think the new dress code will affect/effect the employees?
  • Gum disease is a possible affect/effect of improper flossing of teeth.
  • David worried that his injury would affect/effect his ability to play in the upcoming tournament.

Answers:

  1. Affected
  2. Effect
  3. Effected
  4. Effect
  5. Affects
  6. Affecting
  7. Effected
  8. Effect
  9. Effect
  10. Affect
  11. Effect
  12. Affect
  13. Effect
  14. Effect
  15. Effective
  16. Affect
  17. Effect
  18. Effect
  19. Affect
  20. Effect
  21. Affected
  22. Affect
  23. Affect
  24. Effect
  25. Affect

Well, that’s all the space we have for today. Hope this write-up helped ease the effect vs. Affect confusion in all readers alike.

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