Confused Words | Affect and Effect

The confusion

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The use of the words affect and effect is confusing even for native speakers. The confusion is the result of three main reasons:

  • Apart from the the a for affect and the e for effect, both words are spelt almost similarly.
  • Both words are pronounced similarly by a lot of native speakers (affect or effect)
  • The difference in meaning between affect and effect is so slippery.

So what's the difference between affect and effect?


The word affect is mainly used as a verb and it means to influence, to produce a change in something or to make a difference to.


  • Smoking began to affect his health.
  • My father's death affected me greatly.
  • The recession affected the buying power of the dollar.

The word affect is also used as a noun in psychology to mean feeling or emotion. But this use is rare.


  • Affect is a key part of the process of an organism's interaction with stimuli.


The word effect is usually used as a noun and means a result, consequence, impression, etc.


  • What effect did the drug have on his mind?
  • His warnings had no effect on her behavior.
  • Music can have a healing effect.

The word effect can add to the confusion when it is used as a verb to mean to produce, to cause to come into being or to bring about.


The new government is trying to effect a change in foreign policy.


In a nutshell

Most of the time, affect is a verb and effect is a noun. A quick and practical rule would be to substitute affect with other verbs and effect with other nouns to see if they make sense.


1. affect = to transform, to change..

  • Drugs have affected / transformed/ changed his mind.

Since to transform and to change are verbs and can be substitutes for the word affect then affect is used as a verb in the above sentence.

2. effect = consequence, result..

  • What effect / consequence / result did the drug have on his mind?

Since consequence and result are nouns and can be substitutes for the word effect then effect is used as a noun in the above sentence.

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