Affect Versus Effect

When should you use "affect" vs. "effect"? Most of the time "affect" is a verb and "effect" is a noun, but there are exceptions. We have an example, a memory trick, and a cartoon to help you remember when to use "affect" or "effect."

Mignon Fogarty
Episode #524

‘Affect’ vs. ‘Effect’: The Exceptions

Affect can be used as a noun when you're talking about psychology--it means the mood that someone appears to have. For example, if you say, "Squiggly displayed a happy affect,” it means Squiggly looks happy, but we don’t really know whether he feels happy.  Psychologists find it useful because they know that you can never really understand what someone else is feeling. You can only know how they appear to be feeling.

Notice that I pronounced the word differently. When it’s a noun this way, it’s pronounced [af-ekt].

Effect can be used as a verb that essentially means "to bring about," or "to accomplish,” and you’re most likely to see it in the phrase effect change. For example, you could say, "Aardvark hoped to effect change in the village.”

And in my mind, it’s that German village again. Whole circle fullness! I hope my RAVEN trick helps you remember the difference between affect and effect forever. 


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Free Download of the "Dirty Words" Chapter From Grammar Girl's Book

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Affect versus effect is just one of the many confusing word choices that Mignon Fogarty covers in the "Dirty Words" chapter of her New York Times best-seller, Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. You can download the chapter by clicking here.

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Raven image courtesy of Shutterstock.

This article was originally published July 29, 2008 and updated July 4, 2016.



About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show.

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