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Commonly confused words for English Language Students: Affect or Effect

Updated on November 24, 2013

Affect or Effect - what is the difference

Many times in the classroom I see students writing these two words and not being sure of the difference or the meaning of the two words.

The explanation is quite simple.


Affect is the verb form - to affect .

to affect something (/əˈfɛkt/) means to make a difference or have an effect on something.

"The stress of the job really started to affect my health"

It can be used with a direct object like above (without to - eg - affect me) or with a clause:

"The level of your voice really affects how the dog responds"

It can also refer to an emotional response: "the loss of his friend really affected him"


Effect is the noun form - an/the/some effect /ɪˈfɛkt/

This is a mass noun that talks about the result of how something has been affected.

"The effect of cutting down the rain forest saw huge areas of land become lifeless"

It can also be used to describe things that belong to someone, for example your personal effects or special effects (SFX) in films which describe the explosions and computer generated imagery (CGI)

(NB - not commonly, effect can be used as a verb which means to happen or to bring about - "The Prime Minister effected many changes in the constitution")



Affective or Effective: Haven't I seen them?

Yes, you've probably seen these words.

Effective is the far more commonly used adjective of the two and means successful in producing the desired result.

"The changes in policy were effective in allowing the Government to appease the people"


Affective is also used but relates more to psychology or moods. You may have heard of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) which describes the depression some people feel during the change in season in winter.

More help

Well I hope this article was useful.

If you wish to look at other articles I've written please go to my blog and you will find links to help with idioms and phrases, exams, other confusing words and many other things...

The link to my blog is here:

www.roywoodhouse.blogspot.co.uk

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