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Writing

Affect vs. Effect: How to Know the Difference

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Nov 8, 2020 • 2 min read

The word “affect” and the word “effect” both sound alike but have different meanings, making them homophones. These can be confusing words, but there are easy ways to remember when to use “affect” and “effect,” making sure you adhere to proper grammar rules and use the right word every time.

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What Does Affect Mean?

The common use of the verb “affect” is to describe when something is altered or influenced by another thing. It is an action word that signifies a change to something.

“Affect” can also be used as a verb that means “to pretend or feign.”

Less commonly, the word “affect” is used as a noun to represent someone’s demeanor (their affectation).

How to Use Affect in a Sentence

“Affect” can be used in a few different ways depending on what you’re trying to say. A few example sentences using the word “affect” are:

  • Verb: She must have affected them to get that kind of emotional response.
  • Verb: He affects an air of superiority when he enters a room.
  • Noun: His facial expressions were diminished and presented a flat affect.

What Does Effect Mean?

The common meaning of the noun “effect” represents the end result of an action—the outcome that occurs after a cause.

Another noun version is when “effect” is used to produce an impression, like when referring to the side effects of a medication.

“Effect” also has a verb form which means “to cause something to happen or occur.” This form of effect is not commonly used.

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How to Use Effect in a Sentence

There are many ways the word effect can be used in a sentence. Some examples are:

  • Noun: The effects of the storm were devastating.
  • Noun: Exercise can have positive effects on your health.
  • Verb: You should effect these changes immediately.

Affect vs. Effect: How to Choose the Right Word

When choosing between “affect” versus “effect,” it can be tricky to remember the variety of definitions that come with each word. However, there are plenty of mnemonic devices out there that can help you remember certain grammar rules of the English language. A good rule of thumb to remember for “affect” and “effect” is:

  • If you’re discussing cause and effect and you’re referring to the ending result of said cause, use “effect.” You can remember that “effect” represents the end, as they both start with “e.”
  • If you’re talking about something changing or influencing something else, use “affect.” You can remember that “affect” represents an alteration, as they both start with “a.”

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