Affect vs effect: what is the difference between affect and effect?

Whether to use affect or effect, that is the question.

The usage of the words affect and effect can be confusing at times. This is understandable, since the words sound and spell almost the same.

So let us explore the difference between affect and effect by first defining the words and then looking at some examples. I suggest you also come up with your own examples and write them down. Writing things down by hand is magically helpful in understanding concepts. 

At the end, I will also explore what three authoritative guides on English grammar and usage have to say about these two words. To really understand the difference between these words and get their usage right, please look at what these guides have to say about it. 

All right, let us get started. 

Two words spelled affect 

The first thing to note is that there is not just one word spelled affect. There are, in fact, two.

1- Affect

One affect is a verb and it means “to put on a false show of (something).” An example of this usage would be: Chris affected an American accent

2- Affect 

The other affect can be used both as a noun and a verb. Let’s look at them one by one. 

Affect (as a noun)

According to the American Heritage Dictionary, as a noun, affect means “feeling or emotion, especially as manifested by facial expression or body language.” 

An example of this follows: Children in the play were chosen carefully for emotional affect

Affect (as a verb)

When used as a verb, it means “to have an influence on or effect a change in.” Consider these two examples.

Example 1: Public humiliation affects children’s mental wellbeing. 

Example 2: Unfair elections affect the morale of people in developing countries. 

As a verb, it could also mean “to attack, or infect, as a disease.” Here is a sample usage: Covid-19 can affect the lungs


This word can also be used both as a verb and as a noun. Let’s look at both of these one by one.

Effect (as a noun)

As a noun, the American Heritage Dictionary defines it as “something brought about by a cause or agent; a result.”

An example follows: The policies of lawmakers had little effect on the poor.  

It could also mean “advantage; avail.” Let us look at an example to see how to use it: Melinda used her words to great effect to convince her manager.  

Another meaning of this word as a noun would be “the condition of being in full force or execution: operativeness.” Consider the following example: The new laws will go into effect tomorrow.

Effect (as a verb)

As a verb, it means “to bring about; make happen; cause or accomplish.” Let’s consider an example: His powerful arguments effected a change in the law

Difference between affect and effect according to The Chicago Manual of Style

Now let’s see what the authoritative guides on English grammar and usage have to say about this matter. 

One such guide is The Chicago Manual of Style. It has the following to say about the difference between affect and effect (it follows the convention of giving examples inside curly braces):

Affect, almost always a verb, means “to influence or do something that produces a change; to have an effect on” {the adverse publicity affected the election}. To affect can also mean “to pretend to have a particular feeling or manner” {affecting a Scottish accent}. (The noun affect has a specialized meaning in psychology: emotional expressiveness. Consult your dictionary.) 
Effect, usually a noun, means “an outcome, result” {the candidate’s attempted explanations had no effect} or “a change caused by an event, action, occurrence, etc.” {harmful effects of smoking}. But it may also be a verb meaning “to make happen, produce” {the goal had been to effect a major change in campus politics}.

Difference between affect and effect according to The Careful Writer 

The Careful Writer, by Theodore M. Bernstein, is a great book about English usage, grammar, and logical structure. The book has this to say about the difference between affect and effect:

Despite their quite different meanings, these two words tend to be confused. As verbs, affect means to influence or to have an effect or bearing on, and effect means to bring about, to accomplish, to execute. Thus, “The two-party coalition effected the passage of the tax program, which will affect almost every tax-payer.” For those who have need for such things, a mnemonic device might be: When you mean execute–a word beginning with an “e”–the word you want is effect, another word beginning with an “e.”
As for the nouns, the wanted word is almost always effect. The noun affect has a narrow psychological meaning (and is, incidentally, pronounced with the accent on the first syllable).

Difference between affect and effect according to The American Heritage Dictionary

Here is what the American Heritage dictionary has to say about the difference between affect and effect:

Affect and effect are often confused because they sound alike and have related meanings. First, bear in mind that there are two words spelled affect. One means “to put on a false show of,” as in She affected a British accent. The other affect, the one that is confused with effect, is both a noun and a verb. 
As a noun it is uncommon and means roughly “emotion.” It is pronounced with stress on the first syllable rather than the second. Note that affect does not have a noun sense meaning “an influence that brings about a change.” 
As a verb, affect is most commonly used in the sense of “to cause a change in:” the ways in which smoking affects health. The verb effect means “to bring about or execute”: [sic] medical treatment designed to effect a cure. Its corresponding noun means “a result.” Thus if someone affects something, there is likely to be an effect of some kind, and from this may arise some of the confusion. People who stop smoking will see beneficial health effects, but not beneficial health affects. The verbs produce important differences in meaning. The sentence These measures have been designed to effect savings implies that the measures will cause new savings to come about. Using affect in the very similar sentence These measures will affect savings implies that the measures will cause a change in savings that have already been realized.


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