Difference Between Affect and Effect: Explanation and Examples

difference between affect and effectYou’re probably aware of the phrase “cause and effect.” If you are, that means you know, at least partially, what the word “effect” means. But what is the difference between affect and effect? There are plenty of words in the English language with more than one way of spelling, which are all seen as acceptable. Are affect and effect the same thing? The short answer is no, and the long answer is absolutely not! In this guide, we’ll go over the primary difference between affect and effect, and provide a ton of example uses to help you better understand. Never mix up affect and effect again! Are you in the process of learning the English language? Check out this Elementary English Course to learn the basic concepts of the language. Or maybe you just have a lot of trouble spelling? Never fear – Spelling Rules Redux is here to help!

The Definition of Effect

Let’s start with effect, with an e, because it’s the one most people tend to know, and it’s the one people tend to default to when they aren’t sure how to use affect, with an a. According to Merriam-Webster, the syllabification, pronunciation, and definition of effect is as follows:


effect – noun

Syllabification: ef·fect Pronunciation: /iˈfekt/ Definition:

  • a change that results when something is done or happens
  • an event, condition, or state of affairs that is produced by a cause

In other words, effect as a noun refers to the result of an action. Remember: cause and effect. If you tip over the first domino in a line (the cause), there will be a chain reaction where all the subsequent dominos knock each other over (the effect). If you drink a couple of beers (the cause), you’ll start to feel a little tipsy (the effect). If it helps you remember, think of “side effects.” Medication commercials often cite a list of side effects that can occur after taking their medication: drowsiness, nausea, dizziness. These are the possible “side effects” of taking that medication, meaning they aren’t the primary effect, but they can still occur as a result of taking it. The primary effect of a cough syrup, for example, should be relief from a bad cough, but the side effects can include drowsiness. This is the essence of effect, as a noun. Effect, with an e, can also be used as a verb, which can be a little confusing, especially given the definition of the word affect, with an a. Let’s define affect first.

The Definition of Affect

People often substitute affect, with an a for effect, with an e, which is incorrect. In order to understand why, we need to define affect. According to Merriam-Webster, the syllabification, pronunciation, and definition of affect is as follows:


affect – transitive verb

Syllabification: af·fect Pronunciation: /əˈfekt/ Definition:

  • to produce a material influence upon or alteration in
  • to act upon (as a person or a person’s mind or feelings) so as to produce a response
  • influence

Before we continue, take note of how we’ve defined effect as a noun, and affect as a transitive verb. This is because these are the two usages of the word that are most often mixed up. (Confused over the difference between nouns and verbs? Check out this English Grammar Tutorial and find out more.) The word affect as a transitive verb refers to the act of causing an effect. If taking cough syrup causes the side effect of drowsiness, then you would say the cough syrup affected you. Effect does have a verb usage, and affect does have a noun usage, but we’ll get to those after we go over some of the right and wrong ways of using the two in conversation. Again, we’ll focus on the way these two words are most frequently confused, and try to correct that confusion.

The Difference Between Affect and Effect: Examples

As we mentioned before, effect (noun) refers to the result of a cause, and affect (transitive verb) refers to the act of having an influence or effect or something. Following are a few examples to illustrate this.

  • WRONG: The criticism of his book had a really negative affect on him.
  • RIGHT: The criticism of his book had a really negative effect on him.
  • WRONG: The criticism of his book didn’t really effect him.
  • RIGHT: The criticism of his book didn’t really affect him.
  • WRONG: What kind of affect would this bill have on the economy?
  • RIGHT: What kind of effect would this bill have on the economy?
  • WRONG: The bill she proposed has greatly effected the economy.
  • RIGHT: The bill she proposed has greatly affected the economy.
  • WRONG: His headache was greatly effecting his ability to work.
  • RIGHT: His headache was greatly affecting his ability to work.
  • WRONG: The medicine he took was affective enough to cure it.
  • RIGHT: The medicine he took was effective enough to cure it.

Effect As A Verb

This is where it might get a little confusing. Although we’ve been using effect as a noun, referring to the impact one thing has on another, it can also be used as a verb. This is not very common in every day conversation, but you should know how to use it anyway. Effect as a verb is hard to define, but in common terms, it’s used to define both the cause and intended effect of something, all in one. Merriam-Webster uses the following example: “The new administration hopes to effect a peace settlement.” You could also say, “The school plans on effecting a new dress code,” or, “Her parents effected a new curfew.”

Affect As A Noun

This one is much, much more uncommon than effect as a verb. It’s seen as archaic, and used mostly in psychology to refer to observed emotions. For example: “The patient demonstrated typical affects,” referring to the patient’s demeanor and feelings.

Overview

That’s about the gist of it. Remember, effect is most commonly used as a noun, to refer to the result of a cause, while affect is most commonly used as a verb, to refer to the act of causing an effect. “How will knowing the difference between these words affect your daily or academic life?” “Knowing the difference between these two words will have a positive effect on your daily and academic life!”

The Definition of Effect

Let’s start with effect, with an e, because it’s the one most people tend to know, and it’s the one people tend to default to when they aren’t sure how to use affect, with an a. According to Merriam-Webster, the syllabification, pronunciation, and definition of effect is as follows:


effect – noun

Syllabification: ef·fect Pronunciation: /iˈfekt/ Definition:

  • a change that results when something is done or happens
  • an event, condition, or state of affairs that is produced by a cause

In other words, effect as a noun refers to the result of an action. Remember: cause and effect. If you tip over the first domino in a line (the cause), there will be a chain reaction where all the subsequent dominos knock each other over (the effect). If you drink a couple of beers (the cause), you’ll start to feel a little tipsy (the effect). If it helps you remember, think of “side effects.” Medication commercials often cite a list of side effects that can occur after taking their medication: drowsiness, nausea, dizziness. These are the possible “side effects” of taking that medication, meaning they aren’t the primary effect, but they can still occur as a result of taking it. The primary effect of a cough syrup, for example, should be relief from a bad cough, but the side effects can include drowsiness. This is the essence of effect, as a noun. Effect, with an e, can also be used as a verb, which can be a little confusing, especially given the definition of the word affect, with an a. Let’s define affect first.

The Definition of Affect

People often substitute affect, with an a for effect, with an e, which is incorrect. In order to understand why, we need to define affect. According to Merriam-Webster, the syllabification, pronunciation, and definition of affect is as follows:


affect – transitive verb

Syllabification: af·fect Pronunciation: /əˈfekt/ Definition:

  • to produce a material influence upon or alteration in
  • to act upon (as a person or a person’s mind or feelings) so as to produce a response
  • influence

Before we continue, take note of how we’ve defined effect as a noun, and affect as a transitive verb. This is because these are the two usages of the word that are most often mixed up. (Confused over the difference between nouns and verbs? Check out this English Grammar Tutorial and find out more.) The word affect as a transitive verb refers to the act of causing an effect. If taking cough syrup causes the side effect of drowsiness, then you would say the cough syrup affected you. Effect does have a verb usage, and affect does have a noun usage, but we’ll get to those after we go over some of the right and wrong ways of using the two in conversation. Again, we’ll focus on the way these two words are most frequently confused, and try to correct that confusion.

The Difference Between Affect and Effect: Examples

As we mentioned before, effect (noun) refers to the result of a cause, and affect (transitive verb) refers to the act of having an influence or effect or something. Following are a few examples to illustrate this.

  • WRONG: The criticism of his book had a really negative affect on him.
  • RIGHT: The criticism of his book had a really negative effect on him.
  • WRONG: The criticism of his book didn’t really effect him.
  • RIGHT: The criticism of his book didn’t really affect him.
  • WRONG: What kind of affect would this bill have on the economy?
  • RIGHT: What kind of effect would this bill have on the economy?
  • WRONG: The bill she proposed has greatly effected the economy.
  • RIGHT: The bill she proposed has greatly affected the economy.
  • WRONG: His headache was greatly effecting his ability to work.
  • RIGHT: His headache was greatly affecting his ability to work.
  • WRONG: The medicine he took was affective enough to cure it.
  • RIGHT: The medicine he took was effective enough to cure it.

Effect As A Verb

This is where it might get a little confusing. Although we’ve been using effect as a noun, referring to the impact one thing has on another, it can also be used as a verb. This is not very common in every day conversation, but you should know how to use it anyway. Effect as a verb is hard to define, but in common terms, it’s used to define both the cause and intended effect of something, all in one. Merriam-Webster uses the following example: “The new administration hopes to effect a peace settlement.” You could also say, “The school plans on effecting a new dress code,” or, “Her parents effected a new curfew.”

Affect As A Noun

This one is much, much more uncommon than effect as a verb. It’s seen as archaic, and used mostly in psychology to refer to observed emotions. For example: “The patient demonstrated typical affects,” referring to the patient’s demeanor and feelings.

Overview

That’s about the gist of it. Remember, effect is most commonly used as a noun, to refer to the result of a cause, while affect is most commonly used as a verb, to refer to the act of causing an effect. “How will knowing the difference between these words affect your daily or academic life?” “Knowing the difference between these two words will have a positive effect on your daily and academic life!”