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Affect or Effect

This quick article explains when to use affect (beginning with the letter a) and when to use effect (beginning with the letter e).

What Is The Difference Between Affect And Effect?

Affect and effect are both valid words in the English language and they have different meanings. It is a common misconception that the words can be interchanged, that they both mean the same thing and you can use whichever one you choose in a given circumstance. This confusion commonly originates from the spoken form of English. Depending on where you come from, your accent may result in these two words being pronounced the same, or at least very similarly.  People who have English as a second language tend not to make this mistake, probably because the words are very different in their native language, so the words do not tend to become confused as easily.

In the sections below I will explain what both of the words mean and when they should be used.

However as a quick tip, in common usage, affect is used as a verb (a doing word) and effect is used as a noun (a thing).

When Should You Use Affect?

Affect (commonly used as a verb) means “make a difference to” or “have an effect on” in its most common usage.

For example, “Too many car accidents affected my insurance premium”. So the car accidents made a difference to the insurance premium.

Or another example, “Too much rain affected the crop harvest”.

A less common meaning of affect is “pretend to have or feel something”.  For example, “Even though he was panicking  he affected a calm appearance”.

When Should You Use Effect?

Effect (commonly used as a noun) means “a change which is a result or consequence of an action or other cause”. There are several subtle variations on this meaning, but essentially an effect is something that happens due to an action.

For an example of its usage I will alter the example above, “Too many car accidents had an effect on my insurance premium”. Do you notice the difference?

Or another example, “The effect of too many beers was a hangover”.

The Common Uses Of Affect And Effect

As we have seen, affect is usually used as a verb, a doing word, to describe making a difference to something.
Effect is usually used as a noun, a thing, which describes the result of an action.

The More Unusual Uses Of Affect And Effect

Aside from the common meanings of affect and effect described above, there are less well known uses for the words affect and effect. These tend to be used in more formal writing rather than day to day use.

Affect can be used as a noun in the field of Psychology where it can have the meaning “emotion or desire as influencing behaviour”.

Effect can be used as a verb to mean “cause something to happen”. A good example of this would be “Public pressure effected a change in the government’s policy” where the word is being used to say that public pressure brought about a change in the government’s policy.

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