There are not many things that have stumped more people than the two words, “affect” and “effect.” Not only do they look very similar, but they also sound very similar. To add another layer of confusion to the mix, the times in which you use one over the other are very subtle. To finally put a stop to all the embarrassment and stress, here is how to know when you should use “affect” and when it is time to switch to “effect.”
In general, both words have to do with something changing or altering another something. The different between the two words is the order in which it is happening. If the something you are talking about is what is doing the change or alternation, then it is necessary to use the word “affect.”
“Affect” is almost always a verb. “Effect” is almost always a noun.
Three examples would be:
- “The strong ammonia odor in the dining room affected my enjoyment of the meal.”
- “The hot weather affected our ability to swim comfortably.”
- “The hurricane affected the coastal cities.”
In both cases, the noun at the beginning of the sentence in the thing that is changing the second part of the sentence—this is a clue that the “a” is needed.
If the subject of the sentence is the thing that is changing, or is the change itself (meaning, it’s already happened), then you need to use “effect.”
Three examples would be:
- “The way you drive will have an effect on your gas mileage.”
- “Poor Halloween candy sales had a negative effect on the economy this year.”
- “The Ryan-Gosling effect is something plaguing the hearts of many women.”
In these cases, the change has already happened, and we’re talking about the subjects that were at the receiving end of the change. Think about cause and effect—the word comes second and is the result of something changing.
“Affect” is almost always a verb. Effect is almost always a noun. In one of the examples above, we said:
“The way you drive will have an effect on your gas mileage.”
Another way to write that would be:
“The way you drive will affect your gas mileage.”
In the first example, “effect” is used because a noun is needed. In the second example, “affect” is used because it is a verb.
The way I remember the difference is that verbs are action words and “action,” like “affect,” begins with an “a.” Another way to remember the difference between the two is to remember that “a” starts the alphabet and “e” comes at the “end.” By remembering this, you can remember that “affect” comes before the change has occurred and “effect,” comes at the end, when the change has already happened.
I hope this has made the use of “affect” and “effect” clearer and not more confusing! When the words are being used in relation to you, remember these two things:
You affect things and people.
Things and people have an effect on you.