Affect vs effect (which one to use and when)

Should you be using the word “affect’ or “effect” in that sentence? It can be extremely difficult to try and figure out which one you are supposed to use when, but extremely embarrassing if you mess it up around the wrong people.

The truth is, unless you are stressing the sound of the first letter in a debate about which one means what, the two words sound identical, and their meanings are not that different from each other, which makes it a complicated task to try and memorize which means what.

In this article, you will find a guide that aims to explain to you the basics of these two words (affect vs effect) and help you learn how to keep them memorized.

The short answer

When learning about the complexities of the English language, it is usually better to start with the basics and then learn about the annoying little exceptions. In this case, the short answer is, affect is almost always used as a verb. Whereas, effect is almost always used as a noun.

To break it down a little more, Object 1 affects Object 2, but Object 2 is experiencing the effect of Object 1’s actions.

All about affect

The definition of the word ‘affect’ is to have an effect on; make a difference to; to influence/produce change. So how do you use affect in a sentence? Below you will find some prime examples to help you understand when you are supposed to use the word ‘affect’ rather than the word ‘effect.’

  • The dog affected his owner’s mood.
  • The earthquake affected the whole town.
  • Gravity affects things on Earth and Saturn differently.
  • The show affected her so much she cried.
  • That kind of drug will affect you in ways you do not expect.

All about effect

On the other hand, the definition of the word ‘effect’ is a change due to a certain cause. Below you can read some sentences that use this definition of the word effect, and then we will discuss one other definition of the word effect as a noun.

  • The consequence is the justified effect of your actions.
  • When you hit the bottle, the effect was that it broke.
  • The effect of the cat’s presence was the dog started to bark.
  • Your rebuttal effectively silenced her.
  • There are lots of long term effects when you make certain choices.

Now, there is another definition of the word effect that is not technically an exception of the affect is a verb; effect is a noun rule. An effect can also be any lighting, sound, or scenery used in production. This version is used when you are talking about “special effects,” “the cool lighting effects,” etc. When you are talking about these kinds of effects, make sure you do not write ‘affect.’

How to remember

Let’s talk about some tricks you can use to remember the difference between affect and effect. There are a few different options that you can choose from. First of all, if you can remember the word RAVEN, you can remember the difference between the two.

  • R– remember
  • A– affect
  • V– verb
  • E– effect
  • N– noun

If that one does not work for you, there are still a few other tricks that you can try out. For the next one, just remember the alphabet. A comes before E in the alphabet, just like an action (affect) has to come before something happens (effect.)

If that still does not work for you, there is one more thing that you can try to memorize the difference between effect and affect. Remember that affect starts with an A, and so does action. Affect is the action because they both start with A. If none of these tricks work for you, you can work to come up with your own little rhyme, song, or saying that works perfectly for you. The truth is, even if your trick does not make any sense to other people, if it works for you, it is perfect.


Let’s talk about when affect is not a verb, and effect is not a noun. As with anything tricky in the English language, there are exceptions to the rule, and it may feel as if the exceptions are there just to make life difficult for you. But, let’s break down these exceptions so that they are a little less daunting.

When effect is a verb

The definition of the word effect, when it is a verb, is to bring about or cause something to happen. If you were to say you wanted to effect change, that means you want to create change, whereas if you were to say you wanted to affect change, you are saying that you want to impact existing change. See the difference? Effect as a verb creates, causes, and brings about something new.

When affect is a noun

When you are talking about psychology, affect is often a noun. Affect as a noun is a feeling, emotion, or emotional response. A psychologist or therapist might talk about a patient’s affect, which is basically the mood of a patient. It is different than effect as a noun because it is not the change brought about by a certain action; it is a psychological noun.

When affect is an adjective

That’s right, the word affect, unfortunately, has a third form. You may see the word affect as an adjective, and it appears as ‘affected.’ It can mean influenced or touched by an external factor. For example, “Take out the affected area.” It can also mean that something is pretentious or artificial. For example, “Her attitude was affected and rude.”

There you go! You now know all you need to know in order to confidently write or type the correct word next time you need to use ‘effect’ or ‘affect.’ If you are still not sure you have it down yet, maybe take some time to practice thinking up examples of each different version yourself. By remembering your rules, you will have it all down in no time!


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Brian Jackson

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