Affect vs Effect

What Is the Difference?


"Affect" and "effect" are two words that are often confused in the English language. Many people do not know how to use them correctly. Even native English speakers sometimes mix these up in their writing.

Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All English Tenses

Click Here to get the English Short Stories Book and Workbook


The problem is that "affect" and "effect" are usually pronounced the same. They are homophones. Homophones are words that sound the same but have different meanings.

It is important that you know their meanings and use them correctly in your writing!

These two words can have a big effect on your writing. Using them incorrectly will affect the meanings of your sentences and confuse your readers.

Most of the time, you will follow these rules:
  • Use "Affect" as a verb meaning "to influence."

  • Use "Effect" as a noun meaning "the result."

Affect = verb (to influence)

Effect = noun (the result)


Examples:
  • The rain might affect their picnic.

    (The rain might influence/change their picnic.)

  • The effect of the rain was I got wet.

    (The result of the rain was I got wet.)

    rain

  • The noise affected my sleep.

    (The noise influence my sleep.)

  • The effect of the noise was a lack of sleep.

    (The result of the noise was a lack of sleep.)
man in bed

Affect

"Affect" is most commonly used as a verb meaning
  • to influence

  • to change something or someone

  • to cause strong emotions

It is a transitive verb. This means it always takes a direct object.

Incorrect:
  • The rain will affect.
     
    (no direct object)
Correct:
  • The rain will affect our picnic.

    (picnic = direct object)

The word "affect" is an action. This is a good way to remember its use as a verb.

Affect = Action


Examples:

  • The hot days affect the flowers in my garden.

  • Your homework affects your final grade.

  • The bad news affected everyone.

  • This evidence will affect his criminal trial.

  • My back pain is affecting my ability to sleep.

  • Smoking cigarettes has affected my health.
man smoking cigarettes

Effect

"Effect" is most commonly used as a noun meaning "the result or consequence."

Examples:
  • The effect of earning a college degree is a better job.

  • Two effects of drinking alcohol are blurred vision and loss of memory.

  • Higher taxes have an effect on everyone.

  • He stopped smoking cigarettes because of the negative effects.

  • The snow had a negative effect on my mood.

snow

"Effect" is also sometimes used as a noun to talk about an image or sound created in movies, television, or music.
  • special effects   
  • visual effects
  • sound effects
When "effect" is used in this way, it is usually plural.

Examples:
  • The special effects of the movie were amazing!

  • The animal sound effects made me feel like I was in the forest.

  • I enjoyed the visual effects in the movie, "Star Wars."
movie camera

Less common uses of "affect" and "effect"

Most of the time, you will use "affect" as a verb and "effect" as a noun.

However, there are less common uses of the words.

Doctors and psychiatrists sometimes use "affect" as a noun when referring to mood or emotions. Most people do not use this in everyday conversation.

Examples:
  • She showed an angry affect.

  • The patient displayed a happy affect.

  • The drugs produced an angry affect in the patient.

Sometimes "effect" is used as a verb meaning "to bring about" or "to accomplish." Again, most people do not use this is everyday conversation.

Examples:
  • The new mayor hopes to effect positive changes in the city.
    (to accomplish positive changes)

  • The police officer will effect the arrest of the thief.
    (to bring about the arrest)

Although you should be aware of these uses in case you see them in writing, please remember that these are very rare uses of "affect" and "effect." 

man writing

These were the differences of affect and effect. Now that you understand, it is time to practice! Get our ESL Books.

Get Vocabulary, Grammar and Teaching Tips, Site Updates and Special Offers Directly to Your Mailbox

Join now and get a special bonus:

First 2 chapters of the English Short Stories Book and Workbook.

Are you a teacher or a student?

* We respect your email privacy and you can unsubscribe at any time.