These two words are perhaps the most confused and misused in the English language. Without getting bogged down with which is a noun and which is a verb – and the exceptions to the rules – here you’ll find some simple tips to remember the difference between these words and how they should be used in day-to-day language.
To cause a change, provoke an emotion, or take on a change:
- The medicine may affect his behaviour over time.
- His advice affected the way they viewed their policy.
- The bad weather will undoubtedly affect the outcome of the game.
- She was deeply affected by the speech.
- He affected a limp to gain sympathy from his friends.
To result in a change:
- The medicine effected a gradual change in his behaviour.
- His advice effected a change to their policy.
- The outcome of the game was a direct effect of the poor weather.
- The speech was used with great effect to move the crowd to tears.
- His limp did not produce the effect he was looking for.
How to tell if you have it right
Try replacing affect with words like:
change, modify, shape, alter, influence, move, touch, stir, impress, take on, simulate
Try replacing effect with words like:
outcome, end result, conclusion, bearing, bring about, cause, result, consequence, reaction, produced, issue
If your sentence no longer makes sense, you haven’t used the right word. Try substituting these words in the examples above to see how it works.
Remember: AFFECT = Change / EFFECT = Result of change
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