Grammar Tips: Affect vs. Effect

25 Jan

As we learned last year, when we discussed Homonyms, Homophones, and Homographs, there are an estimated 1,025,109 words in the English language and this can result in some confusion when choosing the correct word to use. Homophones are words that sound alike but that are spelled differently and have different meanings. Today, we will discuss two common homophones: affect and effect. Although these words may sound alike and seem like they are interchangeable, it is important to understand how each is used in order to make sure we use them correctly.

As we can see from the video, the homophones affect and effect can be used in a variety of different ways. This is likely why it can be confusing to choose which word to use! There are a few different tricks that we can use to ensure we choose correctly. Let’s break it down.

The Most Common Uses 

While affect and effect can both be used in a variety of ways, they do have common uses. This means that, although both words have more than one use, they will be used in one way most of the time. Remembering this can help us when deciding which word to use.

Affect is most commonly used as a verb. This means that it is usually an action. The standard definition of affect is “to influence or make a difference to.” For example: The winter storm produced ten inches of snow, affecting road conditions throughout the city. 

Effect is most commonly used as a noun. This means that it is usually functioning as a thing, as nouns are typically people, places, or things. The standard definition of effect is “a result or an influence.” For example: The effects of the snowstorm lasted for several days. 

Uncommon Uses 

Affect and effect both have uncommon uses, and this is where it can get confusing. While affect is most commonly used as a verb and effect is most commonly used as a noun, affect can also be used as a noun and effect can be used as a verb.

Affect is very rarely used as a noun, and the use of affect as a noun is almost entirely reserved for psychological jargon. In this case, affect is defined as “an emotional state as contrasted to a cognition.” For example: Being stuck inside for two days left Susannah with a depressed affect

Effect is also rarely used as a verb, and the use of effect as a verb is most commonly found in formal contexts, such as written reports. When used as a verb, effect is defined as “to bring something about as a result.” For example: The city’s lack of snow plows effected a meeting at the town hall. 

Things To Remember 

While both affect and effect can be used as nouns and verbs, affect is most commonly used as a verb and effect is most commonly used as a noun. As the video points out, when using affect as a verb, we can think of using the words “act on” instead. At the same time, when using effect as a noun, we can think of it as “a result.” This is an easy way to remember the common use of each word as well as a short definition.

Are you ready to test your knowledge of affect and effect? Take this quiz and find out! Do you have grammar questions? Do you need help with a written task or assignment? Send us an email or schedule an appointment in the Writing Center for assistance! We’re always happy to help!

© Alyssa Ryan 


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