Affect vs Effect: Get These Homophones Right Every Time

Affect vs effect is a common discussion in grammar classes, but this guide will help choose correctly between them.

The words affect vs effect are some of the trickiest in the English language. These homophones may sound alike, but they have very different uses and meanings. Using them correctly is necessary if you are going to be a skilled English writer.

After all, you must know if you're talking about side effects or side affects when you are writing if you are going to write intelligibly.v  And since the pronunciation of the words does not change, you may not naturally know which spelling to use.

Taking a closer look at the meaning of these two words and their common uses is an important part of learning to write. It starts with understanding some basic grammar rules that will help you choose the correct word every time.

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Choosing Correctly Between Affect vs Effect

Affect vs effect

Affect and effect are two of the words most commonly confused in English. Though they sound the same, they are used completely differently. In fact, they aren't even synonyms, even though they have similar meanings, because of the different parts of speech they represent. 

What Effect Means

Effect is a noun that means “a change that occurs when something is done or happens,” per the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. More simply, it means the result of an action or the result of a change. This is something that happens after another action occurs.

Here are some examples of the noun effect used in sentences:

  • The effect of social media on the cognitive development of children is sometimes negative.
  • She loved the positive effect her necklace gave to her overall look.
  • When the new law goes into effect, the fine for speeding in work zones will double.

Etymology of Effect

The world effect comes from the Latin root facere. This verb means “to do, make.” It further comes from the Latin verb efficere, which means “to make” or “to carry out.”

Synonyms of Effect

Understanding what effect means is easier if you look at some of its synonyms. These include:

  • Aftereffect
  • Result
  • Outcome
  • Result
  • Ramification
  • Consequence 

Phrases that Use Effect

The English language has several phrases that use the word effect. These are commonly found in written and spoken English. They include:

  • Cause and effect
  • Personal effects
  • Special effects

Words that Come from Effect

The word effect has an adjective form, effective. Effective describes a noun that produces the desired result. For example, you can say that punishment was an “effective consequence” for a crime if the criminal was reformed afterward. 

Here are some example sentences:

  • The new law was effective at slowing the speeding through the busy intersection.
  • That is an effective type of packing tape, so I recommend it for your upcoming move.

Effect as a Verb

Sometimes, effect can be used as a verb. In this way, it means “to cause something to come into being” or “to accomplish an end result.” The phrase “effect change” is one example of the verb effect. 

Here are some other examples of effect used in its verb form:

  • He effected his escape from the second story by knotting his bedsheets together and climbing out the window.
  • The city will effect these changes next month.

What Affect Means

Affect is a verb or action word that typically means “to act on or change something or someone.” It can also mean “to create an effect.” The dictionary says it can also mean “to put on a false appearance.”

What affect means
Example: The pandemic affected the learning for school children that year as schools were shut down

Here are some examples of the verb affect used in a first way:

  • The pandemic affected the learning for school children that year as schools were shut down.
  • The construction project will affect the traffic coming to and from our building.
  • The negative experience at her first interview affected how she felt about her new job.

Here are some examples of affect used in a second way:

  • He affected a British accent to entertain his guests.
  • The pauper affected the persona of an heiress to try to impress the count.

Etymology of Affect

Like effect, affect also has its roots in the Latin verb facere. However, affect comes from afficere, which means “to do something to,” or “to have an influence on.” 

Synonyms of Affect

Some words that mean something similar to affect include:

  • Influence
  • Impress
  • Strike
  • Damage
  • Feign
  • Assume
  • Alter
  • Change
  • Influence
  • Modify
  • Simulate

Words that Come from Affect

Affect also has an adjective form. The word affective means “relating to moods, feelings, and attitudes.” This word is commonly confused with effective, and it typically shows up in psychology fields.

The word affected can also show up as an adjective. It means “pretentious” or “designed to impress.” 

Here are some examples of both of these:

  • She took on affected manner that hid how nervous she was in the company of such wealthy benefactors. 
  • The psychologist noted that the patient had no affective responses.

Affect as a Noun

Like effect, affect can function as both a noun and a verb. When it is used as a noun, it means “a set of observable manifestations of an emotion.” In other words, this noun form of affect talks about the things you can see on someone that indicate the emotion they are feeling, and this use is almost always in the field of psychology. 

Here are some examples of affect as a noun used in a sentence:

  • The study's patients showed perfectly normal reactions and affects after viewing the sad movie.
  • The psychiatrist monitored the patient's affects while talking about their family history.

Keeping Affect vs Effect Straight

Now that you understand the verb and noun versions of each of these words, how can you keep them straight?

Generally speaking, if you are talking about a noun, the word you will want is effect. if you are talking about a verb, you will want affect. While there are a few exceptions to these grammar rules if you stick with this pattern you will choose the correct word the majority of the time.

Remembering the Difference with Mnemonic Devices

The acrostic or mnemonic device RAVEN can make it easier to keep these rules in line. Here is what it stands for:

  • R: Remember 
  • A: Affect is
  • V: a Verb
  • E: Effect is
  • N: a Noun

Another way to keep the words straight is to remember that affect with an “a” is an action word, or verb, which also starts with “a.” If you are not talking about an action, you need the word that starts with “e.”

Substitutions Make the Words Easier to Remember

Another way to decide which word you are using is to substitute a verb for the word. If it still makes sense, you should use affect. For example:

  • The drought affected the crop yields.

You could substitute the word “damaged” in this sentence, saying,

  • The drought damaged the crop yields.

Both sentences make sense, which means affected is the right word choice.

A Final Word on Affect vs Effect

Affect vs effect can be tricky words to keep straight because they have identical pronunciations. That said, affect is almost always a verb, while effect is almost always a noun.

While you do need to know the exceptions that exist, keeping these basic rules in mind will help you choose the right word most of the time.

FAQs on Affect vs Effect

When to use affect vs effect?

Affect and effect are commonly confused words. Typically, you will use affect when talking about an action, because the word is most often a verb. You will use effect when talking about a thing because this is a noun.

Is it have an effect or have an affect?

The correct grammar for this phrase is “have an effect.” Effect is a noun, and this is a noun usage, making it the right choice.

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Author

  • Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.

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