Affect or is it Effect

Affect or is it Effect?

Janice Seagraves

These two words are often confused, and to add to the confusion both words can be used as a noun or verb. Also don’t rely too heavily on Microsoft word’s spellchecker when you want know when to use Affect or Effect. Sometimes it’s wrong.

Affect as a noun means to influence, simulate or imitate. Affect as a verb means to influence someone’s thinking, feelings or attitude.

Affect: to influence.

Example as a verb, as it relates to emotion: The homeless woman’s sad story had affected the small group and wallets were brought out.

The homeless woman Affected an emotional response.

Example as a noun, to imitate: She affected a Southern accent.

She Affected an imitation of a Southern accent.

Effect means the profound consequence or result of some action taken.

Effect: is to cause change.

Example as a noun, to change: The effect of second hand smoke can cause lung cancer.

Smoke Effected a physical change.

Example as a verb, to change: The boss’s speech “to work harder” had the desire effect on his employees.

The Effected physical change here: the employees are working harder.

Effect can also mean someone’s property.

Example: The effects of the victim were given to the closest relative.

Still confused?

Maybe this will help?

Use Affect when there is a change in emotions.

Use Effect when a physical change has occurred.

To oversimplify:




17 comments on “Affect or is it Effect

  1. This is so fantastic Janice and your research certainly is efficient and amazingly detailed. Great job. Looks like I’m gonna have to mark this site as a favorite.

    Thank you for the education.


  2. My mind exactly knows the difference but occasionally I’ll blindly fall into homonym hell and get a weird disconnect between my brain and my typing fingers! Loved this part of your post:

    To oversimplify:

    ~Rose Anderson


  3. As a fully-paid-up member of the Grammar Police (UK branch) this is just ONE of the “couldn’t give a monkey’s” sloppiness evidenced in places where you expect better … BBC news & documentaries, for example, and the “heavyweight” daily newspapers such as the Times and the Grauniad … sorry, “Guardian” … 🙂

    But the WORST offenders IMHO are the [semi]trained monkeys who churn out the garbled nonsense which marches across the screen as SUBTEXT to Sky News reports. On the odd occasion when the text has some correlation with what has been said it is so LATE arriving on screen that the viewer has totally forgotten what was said ……

    Fully agree that as writers we have to be vigilant (but NOT “vigilantes” LOL) in our choice of words if we are to preserve the English language for future generations – the very idea of “evbdy usg txtspk na fu ys tm” fills me with dread – despair – trepidation – horror – angst – paranoia – loathing – disgust …… I could oo on, I hope this is enough to make my point!


  4. Janice, actually it’s much simpler than that: “affect” is a verb (always a verb) and “effect” is a noun (always a noun). Your example of “affect” as a noun is in fact a verb & ditto for your examples of “effect” as a verb. Further, “Smoke effected a physical change” is incorrect–it should be “affected” (i.e. the verb). At least in American English–perhaps it’s different in UK/NZ/AU? Meredith


  5. Thanks for sharing. This has been a topic on my blog a time or two, and I’m still confused. A word should never be a verb and a noun in my opinion. I just can’t handle the concept. 🙂


  6. Janice, I stand corrected. I just checked three dictionaries (Oxford, and Merriam-Webster) and although use of ‘affect’ as noun and ‘effect’ as verb is uncommon, it does occur. Still sounds funny to me :)Sorry! and thanks for the lesson–Meredith


  7. Hi Meredith,

    I’m glad you looked them up. and I can well understand why you were initially confused. Effect and Affect for two little words can be very complicated in their usage.

    But then again the entire English language is very complex. Its no wonder people just learning the language get so frustrated. They should try being writers, lol.



  8. I like the last one best: Psychological—Affect


    I have warred with this for years and when I’m reading the meanings, I understand, but when I’m writing it, I always have to revert back to what I read. But this does help. Nice to know I’m not alone with this struggle. LOL

    Love and blessings


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