The words affect and effect are two of the most commonly confused words in the English language. They’re pronounced pretty much the same, used in the same contexts, and both can be used as both a verb and a noun. So how can you remember the difference?
In this article, we’ll explain:
- The difference between affect and effect
- When to use affect or effect
- affects vs. effects
- affected vs. effected
- affecting vs. effecting
- And everything you need to know to always use affect and effect correctly.
affect or effect
Affect is most commonly used as a verb meaning “to act on or produce a change in someone or something,” as in Even a small adjustment can affect (change) the outcome of the experiment. Effect is most commonly used as a noun meaning “a result or consequence,” as in His words had the intended effect (result). This sense of effect appears in a few common idiomatic phrases, including in effect and take effect.
If the word you’re using is a verb, chances are you want affect. If you want to use a noun, chances are you want effect.
However, affect can also be used as a noun to refer to an emotional response or state, as in She plays the character with an artificially cheerful affect. Even more confusingly, effect can also be a verb meaning “to make happen,” as in We can effect a new and better society through reform. This much less frequently used sense is often used with the word change, as in It is difficult to effect change.
affects vs. effects
The words effects and affects are most commonly used in much the same way as their base forms, affect and effect.
Effects is most often used as a plural noun meaning “consequences” or “results,” as in The experiment studied the effects of sleep deprivation on college students and The new rules had many unforeseen effects on contracts. It can also be used as a present tense form of the verb sense of effect, as in As a leader, she will be judged on how she effects change.
Affects is most often used as a present tense form of the verb sense of affect, as in Pollution negatively affects the environment in many different ways or Seeing abandoned pets always strongly affects her. It can also be used as the plural form of the noun sense of affect, as in She is known for playing characters with unusual affects.
affected vs. effected
Affected is the past tense of the verb affect, as in The conditions clearly affected his performance. Affected can also be used as an adjective, as in Notices were sent to the affected individuals.
Effected is the past tense of the verb sense of effect that means “to make happen,” as in She will be remembered for having effected change.
affecting vs. effecting
Similarly, affecting can be used as both the continuous (-ing) form of the verb affect (as in Your emotions are affecting your judgment) and as an adjective meaning “moving or exciting the feelings or emotions” (as in It was a very affecting film).
Effecting is the continuous tense of the verb sense of effect that means “to make happen,” as in She will be remembered for effecting change.
How to remember the difference between affect and effect
You can remember that affect is most commonly used as a verb because it begins with a, for action.
There’s another trick to help you use the right word in almost every case: the word RAVEN.
R = Remember
A = Affect is a
V = Verb
E = Effect is a
N = Noun
How to use affect and effect in a sentence
Perhaps the best way to remember the difference between affect and effect is to see how they’re commonly used in sentences. Here are several example sentences with affect and effect as well as their related forms affects, effects, affected, effected, and affecting, and effecting.
- Cold weather can have an extreme effect on crops.
- Nothing you can say will affect my decision.
- To effect change, we must first make that change ourselves.
- The patient was described as having a flat affect.
- The substance is being studied to determine what effects it has on the brain.
- Time will tell whether this affects the outcome of the election.
- The company has contacted all affected parties.
- It was an extremely affecting speech—everyone felt its effect, and it affected everyone’s view of how to effect change.
Take the quiz
Ready to see what effect this article has had on your understanding of these two commonly confused words? Head to our quiz on affect vs. effect to find out.