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Can someone explain the difference between affect vs effect?

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13 Answers

To add to the excellent explanations, there is another use of the word "affect," which is particularly important for anyone studying psychology or education, but is bound to turn up in other subjects as well.  "Affect" is often used as a noun, in which case it means something close to "emotional state." Additionally, when it's used as a noun, it's pronounced with the emphasis on the first syllable, like "AH-fect." Its use might best to described in a little scenario. Let's say you have gone on a personal interview as part of the application process for college admissions or you've gone on a job interview.  After the interview, the interviewer discusses the interview with a colleague or supervisor, or write up a summary of the interview. 

Supervisor: "So what explanation did Karl (or Kimberly) provide concerning why he/she wanted to attend our university (or work for our company)? 

Interviewer: "Karl (or Kimberly) stated that attending our school (or working for our company) was something he/she has been excited about for a couple of years."

Supervisor: "What about Karl's (or Kimberly's) affect?

Interviewer: "To tell the truth, his (her) affect was a bit flat, and didn't really indicate he (she) was truly excited."

Supervisor: Mmmmmmmmmm....

In a written report, it might be used like this: "Although Karl (Kimberly) stated he/she was excited about the school (or company), his/her affect didn't seem to reflect this excitement."

 

Hope this helps ; )

 

Affect is typically used as a verb and effect is typically used as a noun.

Affect means to influence (e.g. The rain delay affected the outcome of the baseball game)

Effect means a result (e.g. The fireworks were a surprise and created a memorable effect)

These are the most common cases although there are some rare exceptions to the rule. 

Comments

A big source of confusion comes from the fact that "effect" can also be a verb.  It essentially means "to make something happen", as in "to effect a change."  This is quite different from "to affect a change," which would mean that something had an influence on the change, but did not directly make the change occur.

The moderator's note is all you need to know 99% of the time, but when you see or hear that someone "effected" something, you will wonder if what you thought you knew is really correct.  Don't worry.  It is.  In this relatively uncommon usage, "effect" just means something different.

Tip: Make the definition stick in your memory using hooks like sounds and symbols.

Others have correctly pointed out some of the subtleties related to affect and effect.  I like having simple rules of thumb to start with and then move to the subtleties when needed.  Personally, I find it is best to remember one definition in the case of homophones (words with the same or similar sounds that have different meanings).  If what you are trying to assess does not fit the one definition, it is usually the other.  Think of a common phrase or term with the word effect used as a noun.  The one that comes to mind is special effects.  A special effect is a thing, a noun.  The movie Star Wars has lots of special effects, not special affects.  Another term I use is "personal effects" which refers to a person's stuff, thus, nouns.  If the word that sounds like "uh-fect" is not a noun, then you are probably dealing with a verb, thus affect.  Since the homophone is what causes the confusion, I eliminate the homophone in my mind by intentionally saying or at least hearing in my head "AAH-fect" when using affect and "eh-fect" when using effect.  

As a multi-sensory learner, I add a visual hook to "personal effects" by envisioning movie scenes where a prisoner is released from prison and is handed his personal effects in an envelope.  I always see a wristwatch and a wallet in a 9 by 12 manila envelope.  I read effect, I hear "eh-fect," I see personal effects, I think noun.  That's my symbol.

Just remember, a rule of thumb is not comprehensive, nor is it always right.  It is, however, a great place to start and is fairly easy to remember.

Affect is to influence....effect is the result.
 
 
His choice of college was affected by his love for Alice.  The effect of that decision resulted in choosing a wife over his dream career.
Despite the broad and comprehensive explanations here, I believe you are looking for a simple mnemonic, and that would be:
 
affect=act upon
effect=end result
 
Best,
Michael

Comments

Michael,
 
As an English language teacher I like all the detailed explanations...for myself. But, you hit the nail right on the head: explanations to students need to be SIMPLE, at least at first - then all the detailed explanations can be given once the student has an understanding (and can correctly use) the new word/concept/grammar/etc.
 
Thank you for such a simple response.
 
Gina
Perhaps this will help as a quick guide:
 
The medicine affected the patient's daily routine.
 
The medicine had a severe nauseating effect on the patient. 
 
The doctor's recommendation to switch medication effected the patient's ability to resume daily activities.
 
Affect: "to influence", future.
 
Effect: "a result", past.
 
Have a great day... and hopefully the weather will have no Affect on your productivity Effectiveness !
 
Best,
Vincent
 
With not knowing the education level of the student an effect pertains to does not pertain to anything emotional, it is a direct response to an cause i.e.: an earthquake happens; buildings fall land cracks open.
An affect think of a breakup with a sigificate other: emotional.
     The simplest way to answer this question, and the way that I teach the concept to my Reading Strategies for College Success class is that the word, "affect" means impact, while effect denotes outcome.

Most of the time, "affect" is a verb, and "effect" is a noun. I usually remember this with:

A = action/alteration (verb)

E = element/event (noun)

It's not perfect, but it works for me. I'll be happy to help you find your own way to mnemonic.

In rare cases, the word use can be reversed. Affect can be a noun used in psychology that described a person's demeanor. And effect can be a verb that means "to create change." But these are unusual to encounter, and will stand out from normal usage so clearly and so in context as to cause the meanings to be unmistakable.

Affect is when you hit the baseball and it goes over the fence for a home run.You cause the ball to fly over the fence.

EFFECT is when the pitcher hits you in the head with a pitch. Your pain is felt by being hit. You are effected. In the first case you affect the flight of the ball by hitting it.

Your question affects me because it has an effect on me.

Effect is a noun, affect is a verb.

However, there's one notable exception.  One can effect change, for instance, which means "to put into effect."

Hope this helps.

 

Eric

 

 

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