The words "affect" and "effect" are among the most commonly misused words in the English language.
Both can be used as either a noun or a verb, but affect and effect are not interchangeable because the words have different meanings. To use affect and effect correctly, you must know each definition.
What Does Effect Mean?
as a noun:
Use "effect" as a noun when you mean a change or result or the way something acts upon something else.
- a phenomenon that follows and is caused by some previous phenomenon.
- an outward appearance
- an impression (especially one that is artificial or contrived).
- (of a law) having legal validity
- a symptom caused by an illness or a drug
as a verb:
- act so as to bring into existence
- the central meaning or theme of a speech or literary work
How to Use Effect in a Sentence
Note the subtle difference in the use of effect as a verb, which means to cause something to happen or to bring about a result.
Substitute the words "bring about" to see if you are using effect as a verb correctly.
- The stimulus checks are designed to effect a better economic status for the country.
- The stimulus checks are designed to bring about a better economic status for the country.
Example sentences using effect:
- Noun: The change in weather was an effect of global warming.
- Noun: Global warming has a detrimental effect on the weather.
- Noun: Hyperbole is an overstatement or exaggeration of speech for an effect.
- Verb: Protesters want to effect change in government handling of clean-up.
I love that feeling of being in love, the effect of having butterflies when you wake up in the morning. That is special. - Jennifer Aniston
What Does Affect Mean?
As a noun:
Define affect as a noun when you work in a medical or social service field.
As a noun, the word describes an aspect of behavior, or the way emotion relates to cognitive thinking.
Though the patient is coherent and oriented, his affect is inappropriately flat.
As a verb:
Affect means to have an influence on or to produce a change. The verb Affect is used to show the noun acts upon the object. From the dictionary definitions at synonym.com, Affect means:
- to have an effect upon.
- to act physically on
- make believe with the intent to deceive
- connect closely and often incriminatingly
- have an emotional or cognitive impact upon
Canines, like people, can have allergies and experience allergic reactions that sometimes affect their ears.
How to Use Affect in a Sentence
Choose "affect" in most sentences requiring a verb.
Substitute the word "influence" or "change" to test if your choice makes sense:
- "influence" or
- "We want to see whether driving in the dark affects safety." vs.
- "We want to see whether driving in the dark influences safety."
Affect vs. Effect: Tips to Choose the Right Word
For the most part, that you can use effect as a noun and affect as a verb.
- When something is caused by, use effect. Think cause and effect.
- When something will alter, change, or influence something else, use affect. For example, Not requiring test scores for college applicants will affect the number of high school test takers.
Amanda Morin served as a kindergarten teacher and early intervention specialist for 10 years, working with special-needs children and teaching parenting classes. Since becoming a freelance writer, she has written for a number of publications, including Education.com, the Maine Department of Education, ModernMom and others. Morin holds a Bachelor of Science in elementary education from the University of Maine, Orono.