'Affect' or 'Effect'? What Is the Difference? | Mastering Grammar

(Last Updated: 13 May 2024)

'Affect' or 'Effect'?

One of the 'rules' that you may have learnt in your English class is that affect is a verb and effect is a noun. However, is this always true?

Affect or Effect: What Is the Difference?

It is true that, in most cases, affect is a verb and effect is a noun. Affect means 'have an effect on', so if you affect something, you have an effect on it:

The scandal adversely affected Frederic's career in the police force.
The scandal had an adverse effect on Frederic's career in the police force.

The loss of her parents affected her profoundly.
The loss of her parents had a profound effect on her.

The typhoon affected their business.
The typhoon had an effect on their business.

However, affect is not always a verb, nor is effect always a noun. Effect can also be used as a verb to mean 'bring about a result' or 'make something happen', though this is fairly rare and formal:

This new drug may effect a cure for diabetes.

Radical steps have been taken to effect real political change.

There is a rare noun affect (pronounced /ˈæfekt/), primarily used in psychology and psychiatry, which refers to the outward expression of someone's internal emotions:

Seeing his complete lack of emotional expression, the psychologist described his affect as flat.

Anna is able to show emotions through her affect most of the time.

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Examples from the Media

Economists have warned that social-distancing measures could affect Hong Kong's growth levels. —South China Morning Post (2022)

Some analysts say the worst is yet to come for a sputtering US economy, predicting a ripple effect as jobs are cut back. The Age (2003)

If countries with the greatest capacity to effect change do not, those with more modest means should not be expected to do so. —The Guardian (2021)

It [schizophrenia] is a severe mental illness affecting how a person thinks, feels and acts. In addition to delusions and hallucinations, symptoms can be as varied as a flat affect and lack of focus and motivation, disorganized thinking and speech, difficulty making decisions and expressing and managing emotions, and memory loss and other cognitive impairments. —The Washington Post (2020)


Choose the correct word to complete each sentence.

1. What will be the affect/effect of closing the library?

2. The sudden closure of the supermarket has affected/effected thousands of shoppers. 

3. They hope to affect/effect a change in the political system.

4. The soft, gentle melody has a calming affect/effect.

5. The new policy will not affect/effect us at all.

6. Someone's affect/effect does not always match the situation that they are in. For example, they may show no emotion at all during a tragedy.

Answer Key

1. effect    2. affected    3. effect    4. effect    5. affect    6. affect

Real-World Examples of Misuse

(Source: Oxford Advanced HKDSE Practice Papers, 2013 Edition)

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