Affect or Effect?

    27 March 2020

    This week we answer a question from Young-Ho in Korea. He writes,


    I really want to know the difference between "affect" and "effect."


    Dear Young-Ho,

    These are commonly confused words. Although they are spelled differently, they sound - and look - almost the same: affect and effect. But the one-letter difference makes a big difference.


    Let us start with "effect," E-F-F-E-C-T. "Effect" can act as a noun or, in rare cases, a verb. As a noun, "effect" means "a change that results when something happens." For example,

    The movie had a strong effect on my feelings.

    The use of internet sales had a good effect on our business.

    Another form of the word is the adjective "effective." It means "producing a result that is wanted." Medical experts, for example, tell us:

    Handwashing is very effective in removing germs.


    "Affect," A-F-F-E-C-T, is usually used as a verb. "Affect" means "to influence." In other words, affect means to act on or change someone or something. For example:

    She has back problems that affect her balance, so she has trouble walking.

    Remember our earlier example about the movie having an effect on one's feelings? We could also say:

    The movie affected me greatly.

    In this case, "affect" means to cause strong emotions.

    If you are still confused, just remember this: effect is usually a noun, and affect is usually a verb.

    And that's Ask a Teacher! I'm Jill Robbins.

    Dr. Jill Robbins wrote this story for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.


    Words in This Story

    confused – adj. difficult to understand

    germn. biology: a very small living thing that causes disease

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