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How do I know when to use affect vs effect?

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13 Answers

Affect comes from ad- (meaning 'to') and facere (to do/make).  To affect is to do or cause, hence it is a verb.

Effect comes from ex- (meaning 'out') and facere again.  The effect (noun) is the outcome or result. 

Instead of saying change (which is both noun and verb), to make a change is to affect while the change made is effect.  E.g.: The smog affected her health with only harmful effects.

Comments

Yes,but you didn't say anything about the verb   to  effect.

Which is correct: the dictionary definitions (and if so, which dictionary), academic usage, or common usage?

Lucy, it appears to me, is confused about the basic difference.  To get into questions of what is possible and in which contexts, finally progressing to when should someone use 'effect' as a verb or 'affect' as a noun, is likely to be a wasted exercise both for myself and for the student.  

My answer, though I'd rarely go this far on this rabbit trail, is that I rarely see 'to effect' except in connection with 'to effect change', for which I would greatly prefer to use 'cause' or 'change'.  As a graduate student I cannot recall using effect as a verb, and in my readings I never saw it make a point clearer. So because I have not used and would not use it, I would not teach it.

On the other hand, the noun 'affect' I would use in connection with the idea of 'affection' or emotion.  Unless the student is writing or reading psychological works, I do not see how this usage would be helpful, so I would teach it only using discretion.

If you would both use and teach the verb 'to effect', why?  The point of teaching is to improve students' usage, in meaning, skills, and grammatico-lexically, without having them waste too much energy on rare usages, inaccuracies, or inapplicable practices.

To keep it simple, contrast the two statements below. They mean the same thing.

The experience affected me in a profound way.

BUT

The experience had a profound effect on me.

Notice that "affect" is a verb (which expresses action), which may change its form according it the grammatical tense, and "effect" is usually a noun. 

If "effect" is used as a verb ( This will effect the change), it will mean "cause", or "bring about".

 

To add some other differences to Dannie's answer:

You affect something by changing it - the wonderful weather affected my mood!

You effect a change in something - he was strong enough to effect a change in the pressure of the car on my foot.

Something has an effect on you - The effect of the rain was that I was wet.

People see your affect - by noticing my affect, people can tell my mood.

Comments

By noticing your affect?

I remember it this way:

 

Effect --> result (they both have the letter 'e') Here, result means to be the outcome of.

Affect --> impact (they both have the letter 'a') Here, impact means to influence.

Affect is a Verb.  Effect is a Noun. When you MAKE a change in something, you AFFECT it.  When something happens and there is a specific result, that specific result is the EFFECT.  That's the most basic way I can describe it without getting into a ton of details that won't mean anything to you.  Affect=Verb; Effect=Noun.  Good luck!

Grace and Peace,

Suzanne Miller

Comments

No, to effect is a verb.

You can also remember them by alphabetical order. Affect is what happens before the effect and an effect is what happens after the affect. ex. Practicing at the batting cages will affect your batting. The effect will be a higher batting average. (Affect happens first, effect second)

Read through all of these posts aloud and add emphasis to the /ae/ sound in affect (think 'cat') and the /eh/ sound in effect (think 'egg'). By the time you're done, it should be drilled in your head.

Also, effect  is a noun, think special effects.

 

Comments

No, to effect is a verb. And no, the pronunciation is not "eff",but rather "ee"  as in the English "E".

Noel, 

You're correct to point out that 'effect' can be both noun and verb.  It's in poor taste to correct using 'no' followed by a counterpoint without substantiation.  By so doing, you effect a negative affect without clarifying 'why' we should agree with you.  When has someone ever changed your mind by unsubstantiated disagreement?

Cheers

Just building off of what everyone else has already said, I teach my students this simple trick: Affect = Action (A=A), or a verb "The F will affect my grade drastically." (ask yourself if an action is being completed) Effect = rEsult (substitute the word "result" for "effect") "The effect of the F is that my grade dropped." or "The result of the F is that my grade dropped." My students love these little "tricks" that cover the majority of examples. Hope this helps stick affect/effect in your brain!

From Grammar.QuickandDirtyTips.com

 

Affect Versus Effect

Episode 121: July 29, 2008
Word Choice

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by Mignon Fogarty

This is an expanded show based on the original episode covering when to use affect with an a and when to use effect with an e.

I get asked whether to use affect or effect all the time and it is by far the most requested grammar topic, so I have a few mnemonics and a cartoon to help you remember.

What Is the Difference Between Affect and Effect?

Before we get to the memory trick though, I want to explain the difference between the two words.

It's actually pretty straightforward. The majority of the time you use affect with an a as a verb and effect with an e as a noun.

When Should You Use Affect?

Affect with an a means "to influence," as in, "The arrows affected Aardvark," or "The rain affected Amy's hairdo." Affect can also mean, roughly, "to act in a way that you don't feel," as in, "She affected an air of superiority."

When Should You UseEffect?

Effect with an e has a lot of subtle meanings as a noun, but to me the meaning "a result" seems to be at the core of all the definitions. For example, you can say, "The effect was eye-popping," or "The sound effects were amazing," or "The rain had no effect on Amy's hairdo."

Common Uses of Affect and Effect

Most of the time affect with an a is a verb and effect with an e is a noun.

So most of the time affect with an a is a verb and effect with an e is a noun. There are rare instances where the roles are switched, and I'll get to those later, but for now let's focus on the common meanings. This is "Quick and Dirty" grammar, and my impression from your questions is that most people have trouble remembering the basic rules of when to use these words, so if you stick with those, you'll be right 95% of the time.

So, most of the time, affect with an a is a verb and effect with an e is a noun; and now we can get to the mnemonics. First, the mnemonic involves a very easy noun to help you remember: aardvark. Yes, if you can remember aardvark -- a very easy noun -- you'll always remember that affect with an a is a verb and effect with an e is a noun. Why? Because the first letters of "a very easy noun" are the same first letters as "affect verb effect noun!" That's a very easy noun. Affect (with an a) verb effect (with an e) noun.

"But why Aardvark?" you ask. Because there's also an example to help you remember. It's "The arrows affected Aardvark. The effect was eye-popping." It should be easy to remember that affect with an a goes with the a-words, arrow and aardvark, and that effect with an e goes with the e-word, eye-popping. If you can visualize the sentences, "The arrows affected the aardvark. The effect was eye-popping," it's pretty easy to see that affect with an a is a verb and effect with an e is a noun.

The illustration of the example is from my new book. It's Aardvark being affected by arrows, and I think looking at it will help you remember the example sentences; and it's cute. You can print it out and hang it by your desk.

So a very easy noun will help you remember that affect with an a is a verb and effect with an e is a noun, and the example will help you see how to use both words in a sentence.

Rare Uses of Affect and Effect

So what about those rare meanings that don't follow the rules I just gave you? Well, affect can be used as a noun when you're talking about psychology--it means the mood that someone appears to have. For example, "She displayed a happy affect." Psychologists find it useful because they know that you can never really understand what someone else is feeling. You can only know how they appear to be feeling.

And, effect can be used as a verb that essentially means "to bring about," or "to accomplish." For example, you could say, "Aardvark hoped to effect change within the burrow."

Administrative

If you have a question for the show, send an e-mail message to feedback@quickanddirtytips.com or post it to me on Facebook or Twitter.

That's all. Thanks for listening.

Thanks to Randall Munroe from XKCD.com who drew the stickman cartoon.

 

 

Most simply, as Dannie B. wrote, "affect" is a verb, and "effect" is a noun.  "The lightning burst affected my vision briefly, causing the effect of starbursts in my eyes." This is a terrible sentence, but I hope makes the point.

Comments

No. To effect is a verb.

I'll start with an example. You 'affect' something by doing something. For instance, I affect my grades by how much I study. You create an 'effect' when you do something. For example, the effect of my studying improved my grades.

To put it in more technical terms, affect is a verb. You use it when you are doing something by affecting it. Effect is a noun. You use it when something had an effect or there was an effect. 

 

Comments

No. To effect is a verb.

Danny and Christine are right,except that "to effect" can also be a verb (obviously): as in "to effect  change".(not meaning to steal Maurice's example,but that is the one I had thought of too.)

Maurice,however, is mistaken: something has an "affect" on you,not an effect.

Comments

Thanks, Noel. Correct on both points. But for the noun/verb distinction, that is why I used "most simply." There are many exceptions that could be addressed, especially if you are British.

I stand by my statement that affect can be a noun.  As found in the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

: the conscious subjective aspect of an emotion considered apart from bodily changes; also : a set of observable manifestations of a subjectively experienced emotion <patients … showed perfectly normal reactions and affects — Oliver Sacks>

They also cite the following example:

There's a good plot and good writing here, but Mallory's gender neutrality, conspicuous in her lack of affect, makes her seem like a comic-book character. —Cynthia Crossen, Wall Street Journal, 5 Oct. 1994

And Noel is actually mistaken, nothing has an affect on you.  It's an effect.

See the same online Merriam-Webster Dictionary which gives the following examples:

He now needs more of the drug to achieve the same effect.

The experience has had a bad effect on him.

Computers have had a profound effect on our lives.

The effects of the drug soon wore off.

This treatment causes fewer ill effects.

Yes ,that's right: to have an affect on someone. I forgot.

But I knew I'd seen it used as a noun. But it's not seen very much. Mainly in psychology. Having to do with " emotional affect". And the stress is usually then on the 1st syllable.