Tuesday, September 25

Speaking of Grammar: "Affect" Versus "Effect"

Speaking of Grammar: "Affect" Versus "Effect"

I must be thinking of grammar more lately, either that or there are just more great grammar related articles floating about the internet. Ever wondered whether you should use "effect" or "affect"? Wonder no more! Rachel Berens-VanHeest has written a (terrific!) post about just this.
Let’s start with at “affect” vs. “effect.” Many people use these worlds interchangeably, rather than correctly.

So what do they mean? By definition, you “affect,” or act on something, and something that you do causes an “effect.” In other words, “affect” is a verb, and “effect” is a noun. Or think of it this way: “affect” is something you DO, while “effect” is something that IS.

EXAMPLE: Susan wondered if David’s compliments were starting to affect her self-confidence. (The compliments are doing something, acting on, Susan’s self-confidence.)

EXAMPLE: Bob waited to see if his joke would have the same effect that it did the last time he told it. (The verb is “has,” while “effect” is a noun.)
That's just the beginning. There are many more gloriously simple and easy to understand examples in Rachel's article: Short and Sweet: Grammar Cake Pops – Affect vs. Effect.

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Photo credit: Giuseppe Arcimboldo


  1. Well, no, that's not correct.

    'effect' can also be a verb. 'affect' can also be two nouns: one with accent on the first syllable, the other with accent on the second.

    'effect' as a verb:
    tr.v. ef·fect·ed, ef·fect·ing, ef·fects
    To bring about; make happen; cause or accomplish: effect a cure for a disease; effect a change in policy.

    The differences in effect and affect are delineated in a usage note in the American Heritage Dictionary:

    Usage Note: Affect and effect are often confused because they sound alike and have related meanings. First, bear in mind that there are two words spelled affect. One means "to put on a false show of," as in She affected a British accent. The other affect, the one that is confused with effect, is both a noun and a verb. As a noun it is uncommon and means roughly "emotion." ['Affect' is a term of art in psychology.] It is pronounced with stress on the first syllable rather than the second. Note that affect does not have a noun sense meaning "an influence that brings about a change." As a verb, affect is most commonly used in the sense of "to cause a change in:" the ways in which smoking affects health. The verb effect means "to bring about or execute": medical treatment designed to effect a cure. Its corresponding noun means "a result." Thus if someone affects something, there is likely to be an effect of some kind, and from this may arise some of the confusion. People who stop smoking will see beneficial health effects, but not beneficial health affects. The verbs produce important differences in meaning. The sentence These measures have been designed to effect savings implies that the measures will cause new savings to come about. Using affect in the very similar sentence These measures will affect savings implies that the measures will cause a change in savings that have already been realized.

  2. Why did Antares just have to go and confuse me again?

    You hit on the top of my grammar notes I keep on my desktop. And now I finally have (had, until Antares) a way to remember it AffeCT.

    And the rest of my list I can't remember:

    effect (n) affect (v)

    recline --lay--lies--lay--lain--lying
    place----lay--lays--laid--laid--laying takes Direct Object

    all ready - prepared
    all right
    already (adv)

    complEment...something which completes


    All right
    (never Alright)

    Region--capitalize EAST
    direction/general location lowercase east

    Rise(to go)-----rises--rose--risen
    Raise(bring up) raises--raised--raised

    TITLES - ital longer works, quotes lesser
    Longer works—novels, magazines, newspapers, movies—are italic

    Capitalize any title when used as a direct address.
    Will you take my temperature, Doctor?


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