How do we use “affect” and “effect”?

This week we discuss the difference between the words “affect” and “effect.”  These words sound similar, but most of the time one (affect) is a verb and the other (effect) is a noun.  (There are rare instances where the roles are switched, but if you remember that affect is usually a verb and effect is usually a noun, you will use the words correctly 97 percent of the time).

Ok, first the verb.  “Affect” means to have an influence on, to change, or to touch or move the emotions of, e.g.,

  • The jury was affected by the plaintiff’s pitiful state.
  • Strong winds affected the baseball game.

Now, the noun.  “Effect” means something that is brought about by a cause or agent; a result or an outcome, e.g.,

  • The rain had no effect on the football game.
  • His closing argument had no effect on the jury’s verdict.

Of course, English is never simple, so there are rare instances where affect can be used as a noun (when describing the mood that someone appears to have, e.g., “She showed a happy affect.”) or when effect can be used as a verb (meaning “to bring about,” e.g., “The governor was unable to effect any change in PERS.”).  But most of the time, affect is a verb and effect is a noun.  Remember that and you can be confident that you are choosing the right word for your sentence.

That is all for now …

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