Affect vs. Effect

How to use "affect" and "effect" correctly

This is an entry on my list of Common Errors in English Usage. Visit the main page for direct links to additional entries.

In their most common usages, affect is a verb meaning “to influence” or “to have an impact on,” while effect is a noun meaning “result, consequence, outcome”:

affect the outcome
affected by the weather

the war’s effects
the effect of the decision

However, effect can also be a verb when it is used to mean to bring about or to put into effect:

“to effect a change” = “to bring about a change” (not “to influence a change”)
effect a solution to the problem

Affect has other less common uses as well: one can “affect a Cockney accent” or “affect a limp” (meaning “to feign; to give the appearance of; to adopt artificially”), and in psychology, an affect (pronounced “A fect,” not “uh FECT”) is “the subjective aspect of an emotion.” These definitions are not likely to be tested on standardized tests like the SAT, ACT, and TOEFL, but it’s good to be aware of them.

Related Resources

Common Errors in English Usage: Errors in diction and idiom commonly made by native speakers of English

List of Common Errors in English Usage (PDF): Printable version of the complete list

Common Grammar Errors: A list of common errors in grammar (topics like subject-verb agreement and parallelism) as distinct from usage

List of Common Errors in English Usage: PDF version

© 2006, 2008, and 2019 C. Brantley Collins, Jr.