A Guide to Using Affect & Effect

Perhaps no two words in the English language cause more grammar strife than the use of affect and effect. Here is a hands down, trouble-free guide to the use and misuse of these words.


Affect is almost always used as a verb, and more specifically as a transitive verb. Merriam-Webster displays several definitive entries for affect. However, several entries are considered obsolete or archaic for the most part. So we’ll only consider the most modern and common uses of the word.

  • To produce a result upon:
    His personal happiness profoundly affected his health recovery.
  • To produce a material influence upon or alteration in:
    Her professional job interview affected her status in the application process.
  • To act upon (as a person or a person’s mind or feelings) so as to produce a response:
    The speech was intended to affect the voting results.

Synonyms:  concern, impress, influence, move, strike, stir, sway, touch

Exception: Affect does have a specialized use in psychology as a noun: manifestation of emotion or mood.


Effect is almost always used as a noun, though it can occasionally be used as a verb. We’ll detail that below. The first known use of effect was in 14th century Middle English, originating from the Anglo-French & Latin: effectus, efficere (to bring about), and ex- + facere (to make, do).

  • Purport, intent:
    He now needs more medication to achieve the same effect.
  • Basic meaning, essence:
    Electronics have had a profound effect on our daily lives.
  • Something that inevitably follows an antecedent (as a cause or agent):
    The effects of the medication soon wore off.
  • An outward sign, appearance:
    The job experience has had a bad effect on him.
  • Accomplishment, fulfillment:
    She achieves amazing effects with her painting skills.
  • Power to bring about a result, influence:
    The total effect of the performance was one of upbeat cheerfulness.
  • A distinctive impression:
    The yellow color gives the effect of warm sunlight.
  • The creation of a desired impression:
    Her tears were purely for dramatic effect.
  • Something designed to produce a distinctive or desired impression:
    The movie’s special effects made the scene realistic.
  • The quality or state of being operative, operation:
    The new law goes into effect next year.
  • Plural: movable property, goods:
    The judge assigned the deceased person’s personal effects.

Synonyms: aftereffect, aftermath, backwash, child, conclusion, consequence, corollary, development, end, fate, fruit, issue, outcome, outgrowth, payoff, precipitate, product, result, resultant, sequel, sequence, upshot, matter of course

Exception: Effect can also be used as a transitive verb, which goes beyond the intended meaning behind the similar use of affect (to influence): to make happen/produce/something that is produced by an agent or cause, as in ‘to effect a change in workplace policy.’ In this way, effect is intended to allude to the specific change of an actual and final result, not merely the influence of such a result.

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