Grammar Assistant: “Affect” vs. “Effect”

Grammar Assistant: "Affect" vs. "Effect"

There are certain words in the English language that are often confused with one another. A common example is “affect” and “effect”; they are homophones, which means that, although they have different meanings, they are pronounced in the same way. This can make it difficult to understand the difference between them, yet it is vital that you do not confuse the two in your writing.

What's the Difference?

The main difference between “affect” and “effect” is the way in which they are used. Generally, we use “affect” as a verb, whilst “effect” is more commonly used as a noun. Once you aware of this, it can be simple to work out which of the two you should use. Simply: are you referring to any actions when you use the word? If you are, you need to use a verb, in which case “affect” is the ideal choice. On the other hand, if you are not referring to any actions, “effect” will be more appropriate. This can be understood better by considering some examples:

  • “Climate change could affect the environment.” – In this example, an action is implied through the word “affect”: “climate change” is actively affecting the environment, which is why the verb has been used.
  • Climate change could have effects on the environment.” – Although this sentence is very similar to the previous one, it has a different meaning. “Effect” is not being used as a verb, but as a noun. This is because the sentence is not suggesting that “climate change” is impacting on “the environment”: it is suggesting that “climate change” will produce impacts.
This might sound really confusing, but that’s not a problem. The more that you use “affect” and “effect” in your writing, the easier it will become to notice the differences between them. If you are struggling, it is a good idea to look at more examples. Try to match the sentence you are writing with one of the examples below; this might help you to work out which word to use.

“He was deeply affected by the professor’s words.”

“The country was effected by the election.”

“She failed to notice the effects her actions had.”

“She was able to affect the world around her.”

“The concoction produced powerful affects.”

Hopefully, these examples have helped to explain the difference between “affect” and “effect”. They can be tricky to get right, though, so you if you still have questions, feel free to leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. We also correct the misuse of “affect” and “effect” in our editorial services; if you think your writing would benefit from such corrections, why not get in touch?

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