Grammar can have that effect on people: Affect vs. Effect

We've all stumbled over the grammar rule before: affect versus effect.

It happens to the best of us. We're typing along, minding our own business, when our fingers start moving faster than our minds. Before we know it, the wrong word ends up on the screen. Sometimes we catch it. Sometimes we don't.

But for those of you who still struggle with the difference of affect versus effect, here's a few quick tricks to avoid getting snagged by this rule:

The majority of the time, "affect" is a verb and "effect" is a noun.

Still scratching your head? If you struggle with differentiating parts of speech like nouns and verbs, try remembering it this way.

"Effect" is usually paired with words like "the," "have/had" or "an."

- THE EFFECT water had on the plant was noticeable immediately.
- Water can HAVE AN EFFECT on plants.
- THE special EFFECTS were amazing.

"Affect" is usually an action happening to someone or something. If it has an "-ed" at the end or preceded by the word "to," chances are it's "affect."

- The water AFFECTED the plants. (The water has an action on the plants.)
- Water AFFECTS my body by hydrating it. (The water does something to me.)
- I don't want too much water TO AFFECT my plants negatively.

Like all rules, though, this one has exceptions.

In rare cases, "effect" can be used as a verb meaning "to bring about" or "to accomplish." The most common use is the phrase "to effect change."

- Barack Obama wanted TO EFFECT CHANGE in the 2008 presidential election.

If you're uncertain which verb to use, try substituting the phrase "to bring about" into the sentence.

- Barack Obama wanted TO BRING ABOUT change in the 2008 presidential election. (Correct -- this still makes sense, so use EFFECT).
- Water BRINGS ABOUT my body by hydrating it. (Incorrect -- the sentence no longer makes sense, so use AFFECT).

In other rare cases, "affect" can be used as a noun, synonymous with mood. This is primarily in psychology references and rarely used outside that field.


Hi Julie, I am in your neighboring city of Streator and just wanted to say hello. I am new to WyzAnt and would be interested in knowing how long you have been working as a tutor and if you enjoy it. I am hoping to find students who need help with Graphic Design and Art/Creative Writing.


Julie S.

English, Writing and Research Consultant - Ottawa, IL

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