‘Affect’ and ‘effect’

EffectAffect and effect are often used incorrectly, particularly in student essays. In most contexts, affect is a verb and effect is a noun. When you affect something, it produces an effect – and I think that is where some of the confusion stems from.


Affect as a verb means ‘to influence or change’ or ‘to make a difference to’, and it is the most common use of affect.

The new rules will affect thousands of people.

It can sometimes mean ‘to pretend’ or ‘to take on or adopt something pretentiously’.

I affected a happy disposition.
He was known to affect an American accent.

It has limited usage (usually related to psychology) as noun referring to an emotion or feeling.

His reaction displayed a happy affect.


Effect as a verb means ‘to do’ or ‘to bring about’.

I will effect change.

But the most common usage of effect is as a noun meaning ‘a result’.

It had an immediate effect.

The a, an or the test

If you struggle to work out which word you need to use, this simple test might help. Does a, an or the appear in front of it? Or if you inserted a, an or the would the sentence make sense?

The effect was insignificant.
It could an affect your lifestyle.

If the answer is yes, you probably need effect (the noun). If the answer is no, you probably need affect (the verb).


20 thoughts on “‘Affect’ and ‘effect’

  1. Its just so easy to mix up some words at times! I distinctly remember the nights when I had to think hard before I chose which one to use, “Affect” or “effect” because I am just so tired my mind can’t process things anymore! lol it’s fun though.

    Loved your site. It has got lots of fun words and explanations.
    Keep it up.
    Have a wonderful weekend.


  2. This is one I see a lot in the gaming industry because both terms are frequently used to describe elements of a game. For example, “The magic missile spell is a force EFFECT that can AFFECT incorporeal creatures.” That example is a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much.


  3. “It has limited usage (usually related to psychology) as noun referring to an emotion or feeling.”

    Or, if you’re Johnny Depp, a tricorn, a musket and/or a cutlass.


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