‘Affect' vs 'Effect': What's the Difference?

By Amy Gilmore, updated on May 12, 2023

If you are like most people, the difference between 'affect' vs. 'effect' confuses you. Do not worry, though. I am going to teach you all about these terms.

If you need a quick answer before we get started, here it is:

  • 'Affect' is frequently used as a verb that means to be impacted by something. 
  • 'Effect' is most commonly a noun that describes something that occurs due to something else. 

However, there is a lot more to learn. So, if you want to gain a comprehensive understanding of these terms, read through this entire guide. In it, you will find definitions, tips, pronunciations, and example sentences that will help you remember which word to use and when.

What is the Difference Between 'Affect' vs. 'Effect'

These two words are likely two of the most confusing words in English. In fact, I often find myself looking up the answer to this question to ensure the accuracy of my writing. So, if you struggle with this pair, you are not alone.

  • An 'affect' is the impact that an 'effect' has on someone.

For example, you could say:

The many side effects of the drug negatively affect the people taking it.  

One easy way to remember the difference is:

  • That 'affect' is a shortened version of 'affection,' which means resulting from or influencing emotions.
  • When you think of 'effect,' think of 'effective,' which means to produce the desired result.

So, an 'effect' happens as a result of something, and an 'affect' is the impact the 'effect' has on someone or something.

Definition of 'Affect': What Does 'Affect' Mean?

As mentioned, 'affect' can be a noun, but it is most often used as a noun that, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, means:

  • To create an effect on someone or something

It can also mean:

  • To cause a change in something or someone
  • To generate the symptoms of an illness
  • To make someone emotional
  • To influence or impact someone or something
  • To pretend to feel or do something
  • To frequently wear or possess something
  • To cultivate or claim something
  • Feelings
  • An emotion resulting from an experience

Synonyms of 'Affect'

  • Influence
  • Bewitch
  • Charm
  • Stress
  • Ravish
  • Fluster
  • Impact
  • Sway
  • Move
  • Impress
  • Involve
  • Touch
  • Bother
  • Irritate
  • Afflict
  • Fascinate
  • Disturb
  • Concern
  • Distress
  • Trouble
  • Upset

Related Words

  • Affection
  • Affective
  • Affectionate

Phrases Containing 'Affect'

  • Adversely affect
  • Emotional affect

Definition of 'Effect': What Does 'Effect' Mean?

As mentioned, 'effect' is most frequently seen as a noun, which means:

  • Something likely to occur as the result of something will probably, like taking medication.

It can also mean:

  • A specific impression
  • The quality of being in working order
  • The ability to cause a particular result
  • Transferable property (usually personal)
  • To make something happen
  • An outside appearance that gives a specific impression
  • To overcome obstacles while still accomplishing a goal
  • To set something forth, specifically laws or statutes

Synonyms of 'Effect'

  • Development
  • Result
  • Outcome
  • Consequence
  • Aftereffect
  • Product
  • Fate
  • Cause
  • Influence
  • Produce
  • Induce
  • Impact
  • Yield
  • Bring on
  • Bring about

Related Words

  • Effective
  • Effected

Phrases Containing 'Effect'

  • Snowball effect
  • Effective communication
  • Cause and effect
  • To the effect of
  • Personal effects
  • Side effect
  • Take effect
  • Special effect
  • Mass effect
  • Halo effect
  • Domino effect
  • Butterfly effect
  • Come into effect
  • Double effect
  • Effect the outcome
  • Be effective

When to Use 'Affect' vs. 'Effect'

Even after learning definitions, synonyms, and common phrases using 'affect' vs. 'effect,' they are challenging to keep straight.

  • Both can be a verb or noun.

So, how do you know when and which to use?

Here is a quick guide you can save and reference later:

  • Use 'affect' as a 'verb' to show action.

For example, you could say:

How did the breakup affect you?  

  • Use 'effect' as a noun describing a result of something

For example, someone might ask:

                    Was the bankruptcy an effect of your breakup?

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Affect' vs. 'Effect'

Learning the pronunciation of words helps you gain confidence as a writer or English language speaker. Comparing articulations of two words can also help you differentiate between them.

So, here is a quick guide to help you pronounce these two terms correctly.

  • Use the below phonetic spelling to pronounce 'affect':


  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'effect':


As you can see, the first word has a slightly different sound than the latter.

Sample Sentences Using 'Affect' and 'Effect'

Now that we've covered everything, look at these sample sentences using 'affect' vs. 'effect' to ensure that you have a firm grasp on how to use them.


  • Be careful what you post on social media. It could affect your future.
  • Do you think your vote will affect the outcome of the election?
  • How will the changes affect your life? Will you still be able to participate in your hobbies?
  • Stop letting them affect you. It is challenging not to internalize their comments, but you must learn how to tune them out.


  • For your final paper, you must write the cause and effect of a manmade disaster.
  • What is the intended effect of the drug, and how soon after taking it is the medication effective?
  • After effects of a major hurricane can last for years and put more strain on residents than the initial disaster.
  • What effect do you wish for?
  • Did you see the special effects in that movie? They were incredible!
  • If the effect is undesirable, talk to your doctor before discontinuing the medication.


  • Has the doctor discussed how the medication might affect you? I've heard that the side effects of chemo can be significant.
  • When will the effects of the drug stop affecting her?
  •  How long after the effects appear will they continue to affect her mood?
  • Physical, emotional, and psychological effects from the experience could affect you for many years.

A Final Word About 'Affect' vs. 'Effect'

Differentiating between 'affect' vs. 'effect' is one of the biggest challenges English speakers and writers face. Even with a clear understanding of grammar mechanics, you can get stumped.

So, here is a quick recap: 

  • 'Affect' is typically a verb that describes the impact of an effect. 
  • 'Effect' is commonly used as a noun that means a product of something. 

If you ever have trouble with these two in the future, just come back here to review this lesson quickly. Before you go, you might also want to take a look at the other confusing word guides here.

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Written By:
Amy Gilmore
Amy Gilmore is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years. She developed a love of language arts and literature in school and decided to become a professional freelance writer after a demanding career in real estate. Amy is constantly learning to become a better writer and loves sharing tips with other writers who want to do the same.

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