How to use affect and effect

Written by amanda morin
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The words "affect" and "effect" are among the most commonly misused words in the English language. Though they can both be used as either a noun or a verb, this doesn't mean they can be used interchangeably, as the meanings of the words aren't interchangeable. In order to change how you use the two words, it's a good idea to know a little more about them.

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  1. 1

    Define "effect" as a noun. Using "effect" as a noun is the simplest usage of these words. Here, the word means a change or result or the way something acts upon something else. Consider these sentences: "The change in weather was an effect of global warming." "Global warming has a detrimental effect on the weather."

  2. 2

    Define "affect" as a noun. You will rarely use "affect" as a noun, unless you work in a medical or social service field. As a noun, the word describes an aspect of behaviour, the way emotion relates to cognitive thinking. For example: "Though the patient is coherent and oriented, his affect is inappropriately flat."

  3. 3

    Use "affect" in most situations in which a verb is necessary. In this case, the word means to have an influence on or to produce a change. You can easily know it's being used correctly by substituting the word influence or change to see if it makes sense. Consider: "We want to see whether driving in the dark affects safety." "We want to see whether driving in the dark influences safety."

  4. 4

    Note the subtle difference in how "effect" is used as a verb. It's rarely used as a verb, but when it is, the definition is to cause something to happen or to bring about a result. If you cansubstitute the words "bring about" then you're probably using it correctly. For example: "The stimulus checks are designed to effect a better economic status for the country." "The stimulus checks are designed to bring about a better economic status for the country."

  5. 5

    Assume, for the most part, that "effect" is the word to use when you're looking for a noun and "affect" is the word to use when you're searching for a verb. You're much lesslikely to be incorrect if you stick to that rule.

Tips and warnings

  • A more commonly-used derivative of the word "affect" is "affectation." This means the act of putting on airs or trying to behave in a certain way. For example:
  • "His southern accent was pure affectation, put on to impress his future in-laws."

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