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The word pair affect vs. effect is easy to mix up. The words sound the same and their meanings are quite similar! So how do you tell the difference between affect and effect? When should you use which? We’ll help you settle the “affect or effect” debate once and for all.
In this article, we’ll start with the affect vs. effect definitions and help you easily remember the difference. We’ll also go through some commonly used phrases with the two words, so you know whether to use affect or effect in your sentences.
Here’s the difference between affect and effect:
Affect is a verb. It means “to influence or change something”.
Climate change affects the rain cycles globally.
Synonyms: Change, influence, alter, impact, transform
Effect is a noun. It means “the result of an action or event”.
The global disruption of rain cycles is an effect of climate change.
Synonyms: Result, outcome, ramification, product
We’ll clarify this further:
Climate change influences rain cycles. In other words, it affects rain cycles. So, when used as a verb, affect means the action of creating a change. On the other hand, the noun effect represents the change itself: Disrupted rain cycles are a result of climate change. In other words, they’re an effect of climate change.
Still unsure when to use affect vs. effect? Let’s try this one more time, then!
The correct usage is have an effect and not have an affect. Since affect is a verb, it can’t be used with the verb have to describe something. That’s the job of a noun!
After all, you wouldn’t say have an eat, would you? You’d say have an apple or have lunch. Apple and lunch are nouns, while eat is a verb. Similarly, effect is a noun, while affect is a verb.
This affect vs. effect example should clear it up:
The weather affects my mood.
The weather has an effect on my mood.
Retaining the same sentence structure, we can simplify this as:
A affects B.
A has an effect on B.
So, when (A) affects (B), (B) experiences the effect of (A)’s influence. This relationship between affect and effect can help you remember the difference between them.
Like everything else in grammar, there are a few exceptions to the common uses of affect and effect. Affect has two other meanings—one as a verb and one as a noun—while effect has one other meaning as a noun. Take a look:
Affect as a verb (another meaning): To put on an act, to add an “affectation”
Sarah tried to affect a British accent to impress the judges and the audience.
Synonyms: Feign, simulate, act, assume, pose
Affect as a noun: An emotional response that can be observed (mostly used in psychology)
At receiving the award, the actor’s face showed a genuine affect of surprise and joy.
Synonyms: Disposition, impression
Effect as a verb: To actively accomplish something
The management implemented strategies to effect an improvement in company performance.
Synonyms: Achieve, accomplish, generate, cause, create
Now that we’ve seen the definitions of affect and effect, it’s time to help you remember them. We don’t want you googling affect vs. effect right after closing this article!
An easy way to remember the difference between affect and effect is to think of the initials. A is for action (affect) while E is for end result (effect).
A = Action = Affect
E = End result = Effect
If the word describes an action, it’s affect. If it describes the end result, it’s effect. Easy as that!
Now, let’s go through some examples of common phrases where you can confuse the two. Just to solidify the information!
We promised to settle the debate between choosing affect or effect, and we’re doing just that. A large reason for the confusion about using effect vs. affect is that many common phrases include these words. So let’s go through them one by one and end all your doubts!
Take effect is the correct usage, meaning “to begin producing a result”. For example, “The law will take effect next month.” Take affect, on the other hand, is not a valid phrase in the English language.
The terms and conditions take effect as soon as a contract is signed!
The medicine will need some time to take effect.
The peace treaty took effect a month ago, after years of deliberations.
Synonyms: Be operational, become effective, have an impact
Go into effect is the right phrase, used to indicate that something is starting to be implemented. For example, “The new regulations will go into effect on 01 April 2023.” Go into affect is incorrect and is never used in English.
The new dress code policy will go into effect in a month.
The tax reform bill goes into effect tomorrow.
When the law prohibiting plastic bags went into effect, plastic waste reduced greatly.
Synonyms: Come into effect, become effective, go live
As you may have guessed by now, the correct usage is in effect and not in affect. In effect means “in practice” or “operational” while in affect is never used in English. Here are some examples of how to use in effect in a sentence:
The peace treaty is now in effect, fortunately.
Starting next month, the price increase for certain products will be in effect.
The interim management team is in effect until a permanent replacement is found.
Synonyms: Operational, in force, in practice
The correct phrase is to that effect and not to that affect. To that effect is used to convey that the general meaning of your wording is the same, even if the details may differ. So the description may not be precise, but captures the gist of what was said.
Pathik mentioned that he disliked BTS, or words to that effect. Can you imagine!
The witness wasn’t too sure but knew that it was something to the effect of a threat.
The CEO hinted at a possible partnership with a former rival, or something to that effect.
Synonyms: In essence, in a similar vein, in general terms
Like most such phrases, effect change is the right one and not affect change. To effect change is to actively initiate and implement measures to bring about a certain outcome. Affect change, on the other hand, is not a valid phrase in English.
A nonprofit organization aims to effect change in a community.
The manager has effected positive change in the team’s daily functioning.
Babil’s outreach programs are actively effecting change in the local community.
Synonyms: Bring about change, enact change, drive change
The correct usage is negatively affect while negatively effect isn’t a valid phrase in English. Negatively affect describes the action of causing a negative impact on something. To negatively affect something is to have a negative impact on it.
Widespread xenophobia negatively affects the lives of migrants everywhere.
The prolonged drought is negatively affecting the agricultural sector.
Improper disposal of plastic waste has negatively affected marine life.
Synonyms: Impair, undermine, inhibit
Full effect is the correct phrase, meaning “the maximum impact of something”. Full affect is not a valid phrase in English and hence is never used.
All Star rules are in full effect!
In full effect, the concert’s lighting created a mesmerizing experience.
The company’s environmental conservation efforts are now in full effect.
Synonyms: Full force, maximum impact, full extent
The correct usage is adverse effect, which means “a negative consequence of an action or situation”. This phrase is an extension of have an effect, like several others we’ve seen in this list. Adverse affect, on the other hand, is not a valid phrase and should never be used.
The medication could have an adverse effect on some patients.
Heavy pollution in the city had an adverse effect on air quality.
The new policy had unintended adverse effects on certain vulnerable populations.
We hope this clears up all your confusion about using effect or affect. As experts who provide excellent editing and proofreading services, it’s our duty to help you out! If you have more questions about word choice, grammar, or punctuation, here are some useful resources:
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