Affect and Effect

Mable Scott asks, What is the rule for using affect or effect?


Affect is typically used as a verb meaning “to influence.”
Example: “The rain affected the skier’s performance.”

It can also mean “to put on a false show of; simulate.”
Example: “Frank often affected a British accent because he thought it made him sound smart.”

It is less commonly used as a noun to mean “feeling or emotion, especially as manifested by facial expression or body language.” As a noun, affect is pronounced with stress on the first syllable rather than the second (also, with a short “a” sound rather than a schwa).
Example: “It was difficult to tell whether Harold’s flattened affect was a result of his mental disease or the medication he took to treat it.”


Effect is typically used as a noun meaning (1) “something that follows a cause,” or (2) “an influence,” or (3) “a distinctive impression.”

  1. Politicians are arguing about what the effects of Social Security reform will be.
  2. That movie had a profound effect on the way I think about Rwanda.
  3. The blue tint gives the painting the effect of being cold and austere.

It can also be used as a verb meaning “to cause to come into being.”
Example: “The sweeping reforms effected a dramatic change in the way citizens viewed their civil liberties.”

The distinction between affect as a verb and effect as a verb can be quite subtle, so beware. Thanks to Mable for the great question.

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5 Responses to Affect and Effect

  1. David H says:

    Thanks for the useful example! Alas, any article on language and grammar should be carefully proofread. You wrote,
    ‘Example: “Frank often affected a British accented because he thought it made him sound smart.”‘
    I am sure you meant “accent” rather than “accented.”
    David H

  2. Karl says:

    David, thanks so much for catching the error in the example. You’re absolutely right about the need for careful proofreading in articles of this sort. Lacking a copy editor for this weblog, I’m grateful to have such keen-eyed readers as you to help me out in this regard.

  3. mary says:

    I want to know how active voice is changed to passive voice?And what are the rules for changing active to passive voice?

  4. Lisa Wise says:

    Regarding affects and effects, could you please let me know if we used the correct word in the following sentences:
    Now is the time to wake up to a disease that not only affects one’s…
    It affects almost everyone.
    Anyone who is married knows how one’s financial position affects the marriage relationship.
    Thank you!

  5. Hannah says:
    what about as if/ as though and like and as?