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What is the Difference Between Affect and Effect?

Did you ever wonder what is the difference between Affect and Effect? Time and again these two words come to us with only one motive – TO CONFUSE US!

When I was in school, it was quite normal for me to incorrectly use these two words. Yes, they haunted me! So, if you are today, on the same wagon on which I was when I was in school, you need to read this article.

So, how does these two words differ? What do they mean? When should you use them? If you have all these questions, continue reading. This article on difference between Affect and Effect has all the answers you will need to clarify your doubts.

They are homophones

homophones

The two words – ‘affect’ and ‘effect’ – are homophones.

What are homophones?

Homophones are basically those words which have the same pronunciation but they have different spellings (usually different spellings but may have the exact same spelling), different meanings and different origins.

Here are a few examples:

  1. Hour (it is a noun and it means ‘60 minutes’) | Our (it is a possessive adjective and means ‘belonging to us’).
  2. Bear (it is a noun and it refers to a particular animal species which has thick fur, is heavy and is large) | Bear (it is a verb which means ‘endure or tolerate’).

Usually in a pair:

Homophones usually occur in a pair. For example [hour | our] and [bear | bear]. That is however not the case always.

Homophones can also occur in groups of three or more. Here is a typical example – [to, too, two].

Origins of the word ‘homophone’:

The word homophone is made up of two parts [homo] and [phone]. These two parts have Greek origins. The word ‘homos’ in Greek means ‘same.’ The word ‘phone’ in Greek means ‘voice or sound.’

So, put them together and you get homophone [same sound]. So, homophones are words which have same pronunciation that is, they have the same sound when we speak out those words.

The Difference Between Affect and Effect

verb and noun

It is very easy to mix up the two words Affect and Effect. So, let us de-clutter the problem.

Always remember…

Affect is a Verb.

I don’t know about you. I don’t know how you will remember this. However, what I did is that I related it to AntiVirus. So, A from AntiVirus is Affect and V from AntiVirus is Verb.

When it comes to remembering difficult and/or confusing things, this is what I always do! I associate them with things that I use regularly. This makes my life simple. You can always give it a try.

Effect is a Noun.

I did nothing special to remember this. Remembering AntiVirus automatically cleared it for me that Effect is a Noun.

But if you do need something to remember it, here is an idea:

You heard of the phrase “cause and effect”? Following the cause, which ends with ‘e,’ the effect begins, which starts with ‘e.’

I will use this thing later in my explanation.

You can always come up with your own ideas. There is no hard and fast rule that you have to do exactly what I did.

But…

Affect is a verb and Effect is noun most of the times. This means, that this rule may not always hold true. Of course, there are situations where this simple rule breaks. We will take a look at those situations later.

For now, is it ‘effect’ or is it ‘affect?’

Consider this statement (a generalized rule for using the two words):

X affects Y and Y experiences the effect of X’s action.

Confused?

Fine! Now read this…

Affect means change or impact.

Effect means the result of a change or impact.

Now read the sentence again -“X affects Y and Y experiences the effect of X’s action.”

Here is a quick example that I made up right now…

Tom (X) hits Harry (Y) with a bat and breaks Harry’s hand.

So here we see that Tom affects Harry with an action. The action was that of hitting Harry with a bat. Because of the action Tom took, there was a result. The result was that Harry’s hand broke. The result was the effect of the action that Tom took.

So, an action was performed by Tom and it signals verb – the affect. The result or the effect of that action, that is, a broken hand, is a noun, which definitely is causing a hell lot of pain and discomfort to Harry.

Usage of the word ‘Affect’

As I said earlier, Affect refers to producing a change in something or influencing or impacting something. So, here are some correct examples of the word ‘Affect’:

  1. The tsunami affected the people living in the villages near the shore.
  2. The sudden drop in temperature affected the quality of apples in the orchard.
  3. Her participation in the games affected her studies in school.

Here is a very good example:

“Environmental scientists are worried how the increasing global temperature will affect the polar ice sheets and eventually result in rise in global sea levels.”

Here is another example:

“The Iranian economy was negatively affected after United States of America applied economic sanctions on Iran.”

And here is an extraordinary example that you will love:

“The war hero who was proud of his numerous kills, and was happy because of the gallantry awards he received was affected by the laments of the mothers and daughters and sisters who held the hands of the soulless bodies of their sons and fathers and brothers.”

Note that this last example is an exception to the normal rule. We will explain this in the later segment of the article.

For now, here is a quick explanation to the above example:

The war hero was “affected” because of the disturbing events that followed a war. The war directly did not impact the war hero. The change or the impact, if you see properly, has an emotional aspect attached.

Understand that when an event affects a person or a number of people, the effect that happens is at psychological or emotional level. So, in scenarios like these, the ‘affect’ behaves as a noun instead of a verb.

Usage of the word ‘Effect’

As I explained earlier in this article on the difference between affect and effect, effect is a noun. The word simply means or reflects the results of a certain impact or a change.

Let me explain this with an example (perhaps a few examples)!

  1. His first win in the game of chess effected his overall confidence and he went on to win five consecutive games.
  2. The effects of Hurricane Andrew was devastating on Florida.
  3. The doctor said to the patient that she will understand the effect of the medicine in just 10 minutes.

Remember I used the phrase ‘cause and effect’ as a tip to remember that effect is a noun? It comes here. A ‘cause’ leads to ‘effect.’

For example, take the example of ‘global warming.’ It is the cause that leads to many results or effects. Consider these two sentences:

  1. Places like Siberia will see increased productivity in agriculture as a direct effect of global warming or climate change.
  2. There are many devastating effects of global warming like flooding, droughts, increase in pests, etc.

Notice that in both the above sentences, global warming is the cause that leads to an effect.

In case of Siberia, which is actually at an higher latitude will see an increase in agricultural productivity because of climate change but in lower latitudes, the story is totally different.

In the case of the second sentence, the cause (that is, global warming) leads to several results or effects like increase in pest infestation, increase in droughts and even increase in flooding.

So, a cause always leads to an effect or a result.

Now that I explained the difference between Affect and Effect with examples, you get it, right? It was simple!

Exceptions of Affect and Effect

Honestly, the difference between Affect and Effect was not really that difficult. Things get twisted now. So, roll up your sleeves and focus!

Now that the basic knowledge is de-cluttered, it is time I walk you through the exceptions.

From the basic knowledge you learned that Affect is verb and Effect is noun.

But,

There are times when Affect behaves as a noun and Effect behaves as a verb!

Huh?

Well, THANK YOU, ENGLISH!

Keeping things simple is something this language has never known!

Anyway, we have all the time in the world to frown on this later but for now, let me walk you through the exceptions.

Affect behaving like a noun

affect used as noun - difference between affect and effect

Affect is used as a noun when:

  1. The word is used to denote a specific emotional response.
  2. The word is used to denote an emotion.
  3. The word is used to denote a feeling.

Here are a couple of examples for you:

  1. The therapist keenly observed her patient’s affect.
  2. Mr. Miller’s affect was violent when the images of his belated wife was shown to him.

Bottom line?

When you are using Affect as a noun, it will simply mean an emotion or a feeling or an emotional response. Nothing else.

Consider this:

You really think this thing is very complicated? No, it is not but hey, no hard affects!

You can rewrite the last part (the bold part) of the sentence as “No, it is not but hey, no hard feelings!

Did you know?

The word Affect is used as a noun usually in the fields of psychology and psychiatry. In everyday English language, Affect was and will remain a verb. It will only take the form of a noun in case of psychology and psychiatry.

Clear? Good! Let’s move on!

Affect behaving like an adjective

affect used as adjective

Okay, let me be very clear right from the beginning. Unless you are into some kind of literary work or unless you are a wordsmith, the use of Affect as an adjective is pretty rare.

When the word Affect is used as an adjective, it means any one of the following three:

  1. Designed to impress.
  2. Artificial.
  3. Pretentious.

You and I both know that adjective is basically a compliment to a noun. However, when someone uses ‘affect’ as an adjective, it is not at all a compliment. On the contrary, it simply means that someone is trying to look like or appear to be more important than what he or she really is.

It may also mean that the person is trying to stay aloof from others because he or she has a sense of superiority over others. But in reality, that’s not at all the case.

Looking for an example?

Here is one example from a literary work named Foundation authored by Isaac Asimov:

‘And yet’—the regent scratched one ear gently in affected abstraction—‘I wouldn’t call myself exactly incompetent.’

Read carefully. Again!

The regent (regent is a person who has been appointed for governing a state simply because the monarch, who is actually meant to govern the state, is a minor) – what did he do?

He scratched but that scratch was ‘affected’ (that is, artificial or pretentious) because he knows that he is not incompetent. Rather, he ‘knows’ that he is actually competent. He may even think to the extent that he is THE MOST competent person. But that’s not the case!

Basically, the regent holds a misconception. However, he is very arrogant. His sense of superiority and his arrogance eventually affects his behavior.

Effect behaving like a verb

used as a verb

Generally, ‘effect’ is used as a noun but there are times when ‘effect’ can be used as a verb!

When you use ‘effect’ as a verb, it will mean ‘to bring about.’

NOTE: Whenever the word ‘effect’ is used as a verb, it will have any accompanying noun such as ‘solution’ or ‘change.’

Here is a quick example:

“The violent protests by the students effected change in the college’s exam policies.”

Notice the word ‘change’ right after ‘effected.’

So, what does this sentence mean?

It simply means that the students were not at all happy with the exam policies of the college and hence, they resorted to violent protests. These protests brought a change in the exam policies of the college.

Why cannot you use the word ‘affected’ in this case without changing the meaning of the sentence?

Before I explain, let me rewrite the sentence:

“The violent protests by the students affected change in the college’s exam policies.”

Now look at this sentence very carefully.

When you use ‘affected’ it simply means that the violent protests actually impacted the changes that were introduced to the exam policies. Their protests did not bring about any changes in the exam policies. The college administration changed the policies on their own.

In the previous case, the college administration made changes to the exam policies because of the protests and not at their own.

Understood? I hope you did!

How Do You Pronounce Affect and Effect?

affect pronunciation and effect pronunciation

At the very beginning of this article on difference between Affect and Effect, I did say that these two words are homophones. Simply put, they sound the same when someone utters those words.

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While grammatical use is an excellent method of understanding the difference between Affect and Effect, there is yet another way you can differentiate between the two.

How?

Simply listen carefully the way the two words are pronounced.

When I pronounce the word Affect, I will start with the sound ‘uh.’ So, my pronunciation will be ‘uh-ffect.’

When I pronounce the word Effect, I will start with the sound ‘eh.’ So, my pronunciation will be ‘eh-ffect.’

It is a very subtle difference. Chances are, you will not really pick up the difference. So, do not try to understand the difference between the two words by listening to them. Rather, rely on the usage. You will almost always get the right meaning!

That’s all!

If you still are not confident, it is okay. It might take some time. If you are not confident about your writing, you can always use the free version of Grammarly to improve your writing.

BUT…

Before you leave, do you know the difference between poison and venom? Read now!

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