Knowing when to use affect or effect in a sentence can be a challenge. These words are examples of homonyms. Homonyms are words that are similar, but have very different meanings. Other examples of homonyms are two/to/too, accept/except, and there/their/they're.
In order to understand the correct situation in which to use the word affect or effect, the first thing one must do is have a clear understanding of what each word means. According to yourDictionary.com, the word Affect means:
- To have an influence on or cause a change in: Inflation affects the buying power of the dollar.
- To act on the emotions of; touch or move.
- To attack or infect, as a disease: Rheumatic fever can affect the heart.
The word effect has a different meaning. Here is the meaning according to yourDictionary.com:
- Something brought about by a cause or agent; a result.
- The power to produce an outcome or achieve a result; influence: The drug had an immediate effect on the pain. The government's action had no effect on the trade imbalance.
- A scientific law, hypothesis, or phenomenon: the photovoltaic effect. |
- Advantage; avail: used her words to great effect in influencing the jury.
- The condition of being in full force or execution: a new regulation that goes into effect tomorrow.
- Something that produces a specific impression or supports a general design or intention: The lighting effects emphasized the harsh atmosphere of the drama.
- A particular impression: large windows that gave an effect of spaciousness.
- Production of a desired impression: spent lavishly on dinner just for effect.
- The basic or general meaning; import: He said he was greatly worried, or words to that effect.
Grammar Rules for Affect and Effect
Now that we have the two definitions, how do we know which word to use? Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind:
1. If you are talking about a result, then use the word "effect."
- Example: What effect did the loss have on the team?
2. It is appropriate to use the word "effect" if one of these words is used immediately before the word: into, on, take, the, any, an, or and.
- Example: The prescribed medication had an effect on the patient's symptoms.
- Example: In analyzing a situation, it is important to take the concepts of cause and effect into consideration.
3. If you want to describe something that was caused or brought about, the right word to use is effect.
- Example: The new manager effected some positive changes in the office. (This means that the new manager caused some positive changes to take place in the office.)
4. Affect can be used as a noun to describe facial expression.
- Example: The young man with schizophrenia had a flat affect.
- Example: The woman took the news of her husband's sudden death with little affect.
5. Affect can also be used as a verb. Use it when trying to describe influencing someone or something rather than causing it.
- Example: How does the crime rate affect hiring levels by local police forces?
- Example: The weather conditions will affect the number of people who come to the county fair this year.
If you need more help or want to do some practice exercises using affect and effect, the following web pages may be of assistance:
- Lesson Tutor: How Does the Effect Affect You? This lesson for teachers includes an explanation of when to use effect or affect in a sentence. A fill-in-the-blanks assignment is also included here to test what you have learned.
- Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing: If you find it easier to remember grammar rules through the use of a visual aid, visit this site. A colorful cartoon is provided to help you keep the two words straight.
Choosing between similar words can be challenging. When in doubt, check the meaning in your dictionary to be sure you are using the word correctly.