Define Effect vs. Affect: Grammar Guide
Common Usage of Affect and Effect
First, let's talk about the ways these commonly confused words most often appear. If you follow these simple rules, you'll be correct in 99% of situations involving the words "affect" and "effect." After we get the common usage figured out, I will go over the exceptions so you can feel confident about that final 1% of usage
- Effect is almost always a noun. It means "result" or "consequence" and usually refers to the influence a subject has on an object, such as The effect of heat on various metals. It is often preceded by the words a, an, any, the, take, into, and no. (These words may be separated from effect by an adjective.)
- Affect is almost always a verb. It means "to influence" and "to produce a change" such as Alcohol drastically affects decision making. Less commonly, it can also mean "to pretend to feel" or "to assume a behavior" as in, She affected an Australian accent for the role. As a verb, it can be preceded by a subject or an adverb.
EXAMPLES OF EFFECT IN COMMON USAGE:
- What was the effect of taking the drugs on the runner? (What was the result of taking the drugs?)
- Her statement had an emotional effect on the teachers. (Here, effect is preceded by "an," separated by an adjective.)
EXAMPLES OF AFFECT IN COMMON USAGE:
- Will the campaign contributions affect his voting? (Will the contributions influence his voting?)
- Rainy weather always badly affects my arthritis. (Rainy weather always produces a change in my arthritis. Notice that affect is preceded by the adverb "badly.")
- I affected interest in his speech, but my mind was wandering. (I pretended to feel interest in his speech.)
The Basics: Common Usage of Affect and Effect
Type of Speech:
to influence something
a result or consequence
to pretend to feel or have
scenery e.g. "special effects"
Affect and Effect: The Exceptions to the Rule
Now, what about the 1% of the time when affect is a noun and effect is a verb? Luckily, this only occurs in very specific circumstances. I'll define each situation right now.
- Effect is only used when you need to say "to bring about" or "to cause to happen." However, usually in these cases your sentence will run smoother with a different verb, since effect as a verb isn't common in most vernacular.
- Affect as a noun appears in an even more specific circumstance: it's used to describe a person's emotional appearance or behavior in psychiatric terms.
EXAMPLES OF EFFECT AS A VERB
- Her statement effected great emotion with the teachers. (Her statement caused great emotion.)
- The family dialogue effected a positive atmosphere. (The family dialogue brought about a positive atmosphere.)
EXAMPLES OF AFFECT AS A NOUN
- Her affect was greatly subdued when she made her decision. (Her emotional expression was subdued.)
- The patient shows a manic affect and appears psychologically unstable. (The patient is displaying manic emotional behavior and appears unstable.)
The Exceptions: Uncommon Usage of Affect and Effect
Type of Speech
to bring about; to cause
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