Affect Or Effect? What To Use

by optimist

Should you use affect or effect? It's easy to get wrong, but here's how to remember which one to use...

Many people get confused easily when using the words "affect" and "effect". Now, I'm no stickler for grammar, but sometimes, it's nice to get it right :)

The word "effect" is normally used as a noun. For instance, we would say, "The effect of the fireworks was amazing". The word "affect" is generally used as a verb. So we'd say, "The fireworks really affected Anna".

Affect, spelled with the letter a, means "to influence". So fireworks, rain, or strong emotions could affect someone or something. A few more examples would be:

  • The birds were affected when the cows moved in.
  • The lady upstairs was affected by all the loud noise.
  • The boy was affected by the movie.

On the other hand, effect, with a letter e, is a noun, which normally means, "result". So examples using the word effect, would be:

  • The effect on the birds was not good.
  • The effect of the music was bad.
  • You could see the effect the movie had on the little boy.

So, if you'd like to use effect and affect in sentences, the basic rule that affect is a verb and effect is a noun, will suffice. You can even use the mnemonic A-V-E-N to remember this rule: affect, verb; effect, noun.

Of course, this basic rule is enough for you to get by correctly 95% of the time. But what about the other times, what happens then?

There are some other rare uses of these words.

One use is in psychology, where the word affect means an exterior mood or feeling that someone has. It's used frequently because of course we have no way of knowing how someone really feels! So psychology case studies might include sentences like these:

  • The girl displayed a sad affect when speaking of her friend's death
  • The boy had a happy affect throughout the session.

Of course, it's rare that you'll be using affect in this manner unless you're studying psychology!

Affect can also mean to "act in a manner you don't feel". For instance:

  • Peter affected an air of sophistication
  • Amy affected the manner of one who has been wronged
  • Paula affected the air of an expert

Occasionally, the word effect is used to mean "to bring about". For instance:

  • Economists hope to achieve a positive effect regarding unemployment
  • The minister hoped to effect change within the political system

Hopefully, these grammar tricks will help you get by with all the writing you need to do, and will help you defeat those grammar snobs who "affect" the air of knowledgability!

Updated: 03/22/2012, optimist
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Sheri_Oz on 03/22/2012

Very thorough presentation of what often confuses many people. I was worried there for a bit, thinking you may not get to the psychological use of "affect". When I got there, I breathed a sigh of relief! Good one!

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