Affect vs effect. Many people use these words 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 1 -Affect vs Effect
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 2 – Affect vs Effect
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.)
Trickier Examples Affect vs Effect
Example 3 – Affect vs Effect
If you skip class too often, it will negatively affect your grade.
Example 4 – Affect vs Effect
If you skip class too often, it will have a negative effect on your grade.
See how related the two words can be? Both of these sentences have nearly identical content, but one uses “affect” and the other “effect.” How can you tell verb vs. noun? In the first one, you might notice the adverb “negatively” in there. (Big clue that it’s an adverb: it ends in “ly.”) “Negatively” is being used to talk about how your grade will be affected, or, in other words, it’s modifying your verb. In the second sentence, the big clue is the little word “a.” You only use articles (“the,” “a” or “an”) with nouns.
How do I remember which is which? Time for the crazy mnemonics!
Trick for Remembering Affect vs Effect
I remember that “affect” is a verb, because it starts with an “a,” just like “action,” which is a synonym for “verb.” That one isn’t too bad.
However, my mnemonic for “effect” is a little odd. I remember that “effect” is a noun because it starts with “e,” just like… elephant. Yeah, if anyone out there has a cleverer mnemonic for that one, let me know!
Ready for more quick grammar lessons? What about the story of grammar and the dangling participle?
Rachel is a full-on, hardcore grammar freak. Her favorite punctuation marks are parentheses, em dashes and ellipses. She still loves adverbs, but is trying to wean herself off of them. And she truly believes that it’s okay to split an infinitive. In addition to her grammar obsession, Rachel writes light contemporary romance – occasionally with a paranormal twist – and is published in short fiction. Rachel also works as a freelance proofreader and copy editor. Learn more at www.rachelmichaels.com.