Affect vs. Effect – How to Use the Correct Word

Posted on Jun 29, 2023

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Written by P.J McNulty

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Do you sometimes stumble when choosing between the words affect and effect?

This article addresses the frequent confusion between the words ‘affect’ and ‘effect’.

They sound similar and have related meanings, leading to their misuse in writing.

Our goal is to provide a clear and concise guide that clarifies the difference between these two terms. We’ll define each word, illustrate their use, and outline how they differ.

By the end of this read, you’ll be confident in distinguishing ‘affect’ from ‘effect’, improving the accuracy of your writing.

How to use affect

‘Affect’ is primarily used as a verb in sentences. It means to influence or make a difference to something.

For example, in the sentence, “The weather can affect your mood”, ‘affect’ indicates how the weather influences your mood. It suggests a change or influence over something else.

Another example would be, “His opinion does not affect my decision.” Here, ‘affect’ is used to convey that his opinion does not influence or change my decision. 

An important exception is the less common use of ‘affect’ as a noun.

In the field of psychology, ‘affect’ refers to an observed expression of emotion, as in, “The patient displayed flat affect.” However, this usage is specialized and not commonly found in everyday language. 

In most instances, when you’re using ‘affect’ in a sentence, you’re likely using it as a verb to indicate change or influence. Remembering this can help you decide when to use ‘affect’ instead of ‘effect’.

How to use effect

‘Effect’, unlike ‘affect’, is most often used as a noun. It represents the result or outcome of a cause.

For instance, in the sentence, “The effect of the medication was immediate,” ‘effect’ is the outcome of taking the medication. 

Another example is, “The new law will have a significant effect on the economy.” Here, ‘effect’ represents the outcome or result on the economy due to the new law.

The exception is when ‘effect’ is used as a verb, meaning to bring about or cause to happen. For example, “The president effected new policies.” This usage is less common and usually found in formal or legal contexts.

Remember, in the majority of cases, ‘effect’ is used as a noun to denote an outcome or result. Keeping this in mind can guide you to choose ‘effect’ instead of ‘affect’ when you intend to denote results or outcomes.

What’s the difference between affect vs effect?

Having defined ‘affect’ and ‘effect’, we can now distinguish between them more clearly.

Remember, ‘affect’ is generally a verb that implies influence or change. For instance, “The rain affected the picnic,” shows rain influencing the picnic’s circumstances.

On the other hand, ‘effect’ is typically a noun representing a result or outcome. For example, “The effect of the rain was a cancelled picnic,” implies the rain resulted in the picnic’s cancellation.

Spot the difference?

‘Affect’ points to the action—the rain’s influence, while ‘effect’ denotes the outcome—the picnic’s cancellation. In a chronological sequence, something ‘affects’ first, then the ‘effect’ is seen.

Synonyms for the word ‘affect’

Sometimes, the best way to gain a deeper understanding of a word is to consider its synonyms and how they are used. Here is a series of synonyms for the word ‘affect’:

1. Influence: The teacher’s passionate speech influenced the students to pursue their dreams.

2. Impact: The news of the accident impacted the entire community.

3. Change: The new regulations will change how we conduct business.

4. Modify: She modified her approach based on the feedback she received.

5. Alter: The medication altered his mood significantly.

6. Shape: His childhood experiences shaped his worldview.

7. Transform: The renovation transformed the old building into a modern office space.

Synonyms for the word ‘effect’

If you want to better understand how to use the word ‘effect’, check out this list of synonyms as well as an example sentence for each:

1. Impact: The new government policy had a significant impact on the economy.

2. Consequence: Failing to prepare adequately will have dire consequences.

3. Result: The result of their hard work was a successful book launch.

4. Outcome: The negotiations led to a positive outcome for both parties.

5. Influence: Her words had a profound influence on the audience.

6. Ramification: The decision to cut funding had far-reaching ramifications for the education system.

7. Implication: The sudden resignation of the CEO had serious implications for the company’s future.

Mnemonics and tips to remember how affect and effect are different

For quick recall, remember ‘A’ for ‘Affect’ and ‘Action’. Both start with ‘A’. 

On the other hand, ‘Effect’ and ‘End result’ share the first letter ‘E’. 

This mnemonic, “A for Action (Affect), E for End result (Effect)” can assist you in choosing the right word.

Another tip: If you can put ‘a’ or ‘an’ before the word, ‘effect’ is likely correct. You don’t say ‘an affect’, but you can say ‘an effect’.

Common mistakes when using affect and effect

A typical error is using ‘effect’ when ‘affect’ is correct, and vice versa.

For example, “The weather effects my mood,” is incorrect. Because weather is influencing mood—an action—we use ‘affect’: “The weather affects my mood.”

Another frequent mistake is using ‘affect’ as a noun, like, “The affect of the policy was clear.” 

Here, ‘effect’ is correct as it represents the outcome of the policy: “The effect of the policy was clear.”

Less commonly, ‘effect’ is misused as a verb, such as, “The president will affect new policies.” 

Correctly, we use ‘effect’ to signify the president causing new policies to happen: “The president will effect new policies.”

Spotting these common mistakes and understanding why they’re incorrect can help you avoid similar errors in your writing.

Affect vs effect quiz

Let’s test your understanding with a brief quiz.

Choose ‘affect’ or ‘effect’ to complete each sentence correctly:

   1. “The medicine had a/an _______ on my health.”

   2. “The loud music could _______ the baby’s sleep.”

   3. “The _______ of the storm was devastating.”

   4. “His decision did not _______ my plans.”

   5. “The new principal hopes to _______ positive changes.”


   1. effect – The sentence calls for a noun, indicating the result of the medicine on health.

   2. affect – This is an action, where loud music influences the baby’s sleep.

   3. effect – The sentence demands a noun, representing the result of the storm.

   4. affect – An action is implied where his decision influences my plans.

   5. effect – In the less common usage, ‘effect’ is a verb meaning to bring about changes.

The difference between affect and effect – final thoughts

‘Affect’ and ‘effect’ are two words that can be tricky to differentiate, but understanding their primary uses and exceptions will help you use them correctly. 

Remember, ‘affect’ typically acts as a verb to denote influence or change, while ‘effect’ usually serves as a noun to indicate an outcome or result. 

Exceptions exist, but they’re less common. 

The mnemonics and common mistakes we’ve discussed can serve as tools to guide your usage. 

Now that you’ve grasped the difference and tested your knowledge with a quiz, you’re well-equipped to use ‘affect’ and ‘effect’ accurately in your writing. 

Keep practicing and remain attentive to these words in your reading—it’s the best way to solidify your understanding. 

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