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The confusion with "affect" and "effect"

Updated on June 14, 2012
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Choosing the right word can be confusing!


Affect vs. Effect

English is said to be one of the most difficult languages to learn and with good reason. Today’s topic is centered around two words among many others that are in part responsible for the language’s notorious reputation: affect and effect.

Some people are good at being able to quickly discern which word should be used based on the context of the sentence; however, for those of us who struggle, there is hope and some useful tips to help you along the way.


Affect

There are two primary things you should know about this word in order to differentiate it from “effect.”

1) Affect is almost always used as a verb. When used in this manner, affect means “to influence” or to “act in a way you don’t necessarily feel.”

Ex: The fight with her boyfriend affected her mood.

Ex: She affected an air of indifference when he came to apologize.


2) Affect is very rarely used as a noun

The only time it is used as a noun is in relation to psychological jargon. When used in this way, affect means “an emotion.”

Ex: When Ken and Jen broke up, Jen displayed a depressed affect.


Effect

On the other hand, effect has a few rules of its own.

1) Effect is almost always used as a noun. In this sense, it means “a result or an outcome.” It can also mean “a personal item.”

Ex: The effect of their breakup was that Jen cried all afternoon.

Ex: She collected her personal effects from Ken’s car.

2) In rare cases, effect can be used a verb. When used in this context, effect means “to bring about or to accomplish.”

Ex: She hoped the breakup would effect change in his behavior.

Quick trick: If a definite (the) or indefinite (an or a) article precedes, you should use “effect.” This is because an article typically hints that a noun will follow (and as we’ve established, effect is mostly used as a noun).


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