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  • “Affect” vs. “Effect”: A Grammar Challenge Explained

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    There are few words as commonly confused in the English language as “affect” and “effect.” Even native English speakers sometimes use these two words incorrectly. However, once you learn the definitions of the two words and a couple simple tricks to remember the differences between them, you should have no trouble using “affect” and “effect” correctly.


    Definitions of “affect” and “effect”

    “Affect” is almost always used as a verb. It basically means “to influence” in some way, such as “the chemicals affected the scientist strangely” or “I didn’t think that movie would affect me so strongly.” It is occasionally used as a noun to describe a facial expression, such as “the patient showed little affect during the experiment,” but this form of the word isn’t used very much outside of the field of psychology.


    “Effect” is almost always used as a noun. It typically means “a result or outcome,” such as “the fireworks had a nice effect” or “the special effects made the movie seem real.” It is occasionally used as a verb that means “to bring about” (e.g., “It’s up to the next generation to effect change”), but this usage is far less common. For the purposes of English language learning, think of “effect” as a noun and “affect” as a verb.


    Quick tricks to remember the difference between “affect” and “effect”


    There are plenty of word association tricks people use to remember the difference between “affect” and “effect,” and you may end up coming up with one that works well for you. However, you can also use the tricks below to help you remember.


    When you’re trying to remember which word is used as a noun and which is used as a verb, think of these two sentences:


    1. Ants affect apple pie. (While it might not be pretty, the image of ants crawling over a piece of apple pie is certainly vivid and will hopefully help you remember that “affect” is most commonly used as a verb.)


    2. Elephants enter England and have a huge effect. (Again, this vivid and specific sentence will hopefully help you remember that “effect” is most commonly used as a noun.)


    If you need another memory trick, think of the exclamations “AVAST!” and “ENTER!” “Avast,” an expression sometimes used by pirates in movies, starts with the letter A (for “affect”) and is followed by V (for “verb”). “Enter” starts with E (for “effect”) and is followed by N (for “noun”).


    Hopefully this guide has had a positive effect on you. If you’ve found this resource helpful, remember to share it with a friend who may be struggling with the difference between “affect” and “effect.”

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  • Comments on this post (1 comment)

    • Karina says...

      One that I came up with for my students was comparing it to the alphabet:
      “A comes before E”
      As in Affects come before the Effects… something has to be Affected to have an Effect.

      On March 19, 2016

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