English Grammar: The Difference between Effect vs. Affect

Worksheet download: effect-affect-difference-worksheet.docx


The Basic Explanation

1) ‘Affect’ is a Verb

Verbs are words that describe an action, like kick, go, feel, think. The meaning of the verb affect is to make a difference or cause a change. For example,

  • The weather affects my mood. (= it makes a difference to my mood; it changes it)
  • What you eat affects your health.
  • His comment didn’t affect me.
  • I wasn’t affected by his comment. (Passive voice)

2) ‘Effect’ is a Noun

Nouns are things, like a pencil, car, idea, or person. Nouns are used as subjects and objects of sentences. The noun effect means a change that is the result of an action. For example,

  • The effect of the medicine was noticeable. (= he noticed the change from the action (taking medicine))
  • He argued but it didn’t have any effect. (= the action (arguing) didn’t create a change)

In summary, if need to use a verb, use affect. If you need to use a noun, use effect.

If you need to review verbs and nouns, remember that sentences in English are generally subject + verb + object. Subjects and objects are nouns (things). Verbs are action words.

[subject + verb + object]

John kicked the ball.

The weather affected my mood.

The leaders spoke about the effect.

If you need to use a verb, use affect. If you need to use a noun, use effect.

Here, try this short quiz on the difference between effect and affect to see if you understand.

Exercise #1: Affect or Effect

  1. The students were greatly  when school closed down. Of course, the closure  the teachers too.
  2. The  of climate change are more obvious every year. It will  everyone’s lives.
  3. Drugs  how people think. The  of some drugs can last a long time.
  4. The company’s new policy had a negative  on the staff. The people who were most  were the employees who worked in customer service.
  5. The child’s effort to wake his father didn’t have any .

 

Does weather affect your mood?

Does weather affect your mood?

The Advanced Explanation: Effect Can Be a Verb

(If you’re a beginner or intermediate student, then don’t worry about this.)

The word effect can also be used as a verb, but it is less common. To effect something means to bring about something; to cause something to happen. The verb is a transitive verb (it always has an object that comes after it), so it is always followed by a noun. The noun is the thing that was created or brought about. For example,

  • The joke effected laughter from his wife. (= the joke caused laughter (a noun) to happen).
  • His ideas effected political change. (= his ideas brought about change (a noun); they caused it to happen)
  • The political change was effected by his ideas. (Passive voice)
  • The new government plans to effect reforms to education and healthcare.

The underlined words are all nouns that were created (or caused to exist) by the subject of the sentence (A joke, a politician, etc.). The nouns did not exist before.

To effect change is a common phrase. When politicians say they want to effect change, they are saying that they want to make change happen, they want to bring it into existence; they want to make a difference.

To make it clear, let’s compare the difference between the two verbs affect and effect:

to affect something = to make something change, to influence something (this thing already exists)

  • The rain affected my mood. (It caused my mood to change).

to effect something = to cause something to happen, to bring something about or into existence.

  • The rain effected several puddles on the beach. (It caused the puddles to happen; they didn’t exist before)

Do you think you understand? Here’s another short quiz.

Exercise #2: Affect or Effect as Verbs

  1. The new law  positive change in several communities.
  2. Of course, the war greatly  tourism in the region.
  3. Repeated failure can  people’s confidence.
  4. Obama  a transformation among the voters.
  5. Student loan debt will likely  the lifestyle choices a person makes after graduation.
  6. To  his escape, the man dug a tunnel from his cell to the outside of the prison.
  7. The management of the company were not  by the salary cuts.
  8. The rebels were hoping a revolution would be  by their actions.

 

 

Other Common Expressions with Effect

Note that the word effect is used as a noun in these common expressions:

in effect (adjective) = to be in place, to be in operation

  • The new dress code is already in effect. (It is happening now; it is in place)
  • A visa requirement for Canadians has been in effect since 2009.

for effect (adverb) = when you do something for effect, it means you do it to impress people.

  • He wore his most expensive suit for effect. ( = he did it to impress people)

come into effect  / take effect (verbs) = to start to apply, to be applicable, to become valid. Both of these expressions have the same meaning.

  • The new drinking age will come into effect on January 1st. ( = the law will start to apply then)
  • The new drinking age will take effect on January 1st. ( = the law will start to apply then)

As a final note, I will say that affect can also be used as a noun, but it is  rare and only used in psychology, so I have not included it in this lesson.

Those are the basics about the difference between the words affect, a verb, and effect, a noun (and sometimes a verb). I hope this has been helpful. Teachers, there’s a link to download the worksheet at the very top.

Find a mistake? Have a question? Leave a comment below. To study other word differences, select Word Differences from the horizontal Grammar menu atop the page.

— Created by Matthew Barton of Englishcurrent.com (copyright)

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