The English language is full of homophones. One of the most confusing ones is the use of affect vs effect. These two words often create confusion about how speakers and even writers would use them. Such confusing words are called homophones.
What are homophones?
Homophones are words pronounced the same way as other words but have different meanings, even if they have different spellings. For example, the terms “to” and “two” are homophones.
Today’s article will teach you the correct uses of effect and affect.
When to use Affect and Effect in the right context?
Learn in the following discussion the difference between the two. When to use affect, and when should you say effect? Also, check out the examples that go into this article. All this to clear effect versus affect usage.
Here are some example sentences to show you how these words can be used correctly:
The medicine had an immediate effect on my headache. (noun)
Smoking affects your health negatively. (verb)
In effect, he was saying that I was lazy. (verb)
The no-smoking policy went into effect yesterday. (noun)
You might be wondering, what is the difference between affect and effect? While these two words are often confused and used interchangeably, there is a subtle difference in their meaning and usage.
Examples of Affect and Effect: Used in a sentence
In this article, we’ll explore when to use each word and provide some examples to illustrate their different uses.
The word Affect is usually a verb, and it means to influence or change.
The word Effect is usually a noun that refers to an outcome of a change.
Here are some example sentences:
The storm affected the power lines. (verb)
The storm had a devastating effect on the town. (noun)
He was happy to see the positive effect his donation made. (noun)
Effect as a verb that means to accomplish
When you want to use effect as a verb, it means “to bring about” or “to accomplish.”
Below is an example that means to bring about a change using the word effect.
“He effected repairs on the house.”
This sentence means, “he caused repairs to happen on the house.” At first, it may sound off. But the truth is that this usage is acceptable. A native speaker would also understand that someone completed or accomplished a repair in a house.
It would sound off and unnatural to say that someone “affected the repairs”. That usage would simply not make any sense.
Effect as a term that means to fake something
The word effect can also be used as a verb that means “to fake” or “to pretend,” especially in the phrases effect a change and effect an escape.
“She effected an escape from the burning building by going out the window.”
This sentence means, “She pretended to escape from the building by going out the window.” (In other words, she didn’t actually escape; she just acted as if she did.)
Similarly, you can say someone “effected” a change when they faked or pretended to change:
Here is an example, “I tried to effect a change in my eating habits, but I only lasted two days before I was back to my old ways.”
The sentence means that someone tried to change their eating habits, but it only lasted two days before they returned to their old ways. In other words, the speaker did not change an eating habit, but the speaker only pretended to.
Effect as a noun that means something is active
When effect is used as a noun, it usually refers to the result of something, or it is active. It takes effect.
“The effect of the medicine was almost instantaneous. (noun)
In this sentence, effect is a noun meaning “result.” You could also say, “The medicine had an instantaneous effect,” where the effect is still a noun, but now it’s the object of the preposition on.
Another common way to use effect is to say something is in effect. This means “it’s working” or “it’s active.”
“The no-smoking policy went into effect yesterday.”
This sentence means, “The no-smoking policy became active yesterday.”
You might also see effect used as a verb in the phrase “in effect,” which means “essentially” or “basically.”
“In effect, he was saying that I was lazy.”
This sentence means, “Essentially, he was saying that I was lazy.”
When choosing between affect and effect, remember that affect is usually a verb meaning “to influence” or “to change,” while effect is usually a noun meaning “the result of something.”
And if you need a verb meaning “to bring about” or “to accomplish,” effect is the word you want.
Just be careful not to effect a change in your writing by using these words interchangeably!
Why the confusion?
So now you got these clear examples of when to use the right word and in what context. Now you can say that it is easy to identify what is the effect of what and how it affects., and so on. But why is there such confusion? How can effect and affect be used in the same sentence, then?
The confusion started because “effect” was once solely a verb meaning “to bring about” or “to accomplish.” It still is used this way occasionally. But over time, people started using effect as a noun more often until it became common to use “effect” to mean “result.”
At the same time, “affect” was always primarily a verb meaning “to influence” or “to change.” But because effect was being used as a noun more often, people started using “affect” as a noun as well. Usually, the context used by “affect” here is in psychology or other sciences—when they meant “emotion” or “mood.”
The effect of this was that people started using effect and affect interchangeably. However, in reality, they usually aren’t. So if you want to sound like a native speaker, it’s essential to use these words correctly.
Tips to sound like a native speaker
If you do not want to get confused next time, there are a few tips that language experts would advise. This is especially helpful to non-native English speakers.
Improve both your written and spoken English with these few simple tips:
First, look at the effect of the action. If it’s a result, use effect as in: “The effect of the accident was a traffic jam for miles.”
Second, look at how the action affects someone or something. If it influences or changes them, use affect: “Smoking affects your health negatively.”
Third, if you can substitute “bring about” or “accomplish” for the verb, then effect is probably correct. For example, “He effected a change in policy by bringing up the issue at the meeting.”
Fourth, to remember that affect is usually a verb, think of phrases such as “He affected a change” or “She was affected by the news.”
Finally, if you’re still unsure, try using effect as a verb and affect as a verb in your sentence to see which one sounds better. If neither sounds right, then chances are you’re using the wrong word altogether!