Affect or effect?

19 May

Welcome to the first of my weekly mini-posts on troublesome pairs of words.  Keep on suggesting new pairs on the comments to my original post!

So, today it’s affect and effect.

Quite a simple one – if you AFFECT something, it means you have an EFFECT on it.

Well, not quite that simple …

Affect is (mainly) a verb, which means “to have an effect on”, or to “make a difference to.”  Effect is used mainly as a noun, the difference that is created when something is affected.  It’s an end result or consequence.

Although you can also “Effect a change in something”, this is a different verb used in a different way.  And an affect is also used in other senses, such as to denote pretending or as a precise term in psychology, but we won’t worry too much about those uses, as they’re not the ones that tend to get mixed up.


Bill’s injury affected his ability to play in the team, and had a bad effect on the team’s morale.

Bill affected the morale of the team when he got injured.  The effect was to make them play less well.

I will affect the balance of this blog between grammar and opinions when I post all these mini-posts.

When used in combination with another drug, this drug can affect the side-effects in a positive way.

The effect of the water on the runner was marvellous; he perked up immediately.

Sarah effected a change in the way the meetings were structured.

Thanks as usual to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary and New Hart’s Rules for helping back me up!


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5 responses to “Affect or effect?

  1. Jan Carr

    May 27, 2011 at 10:32 am

    Good choice for your first post on the pairs theme. This is a pair that gets mis-used regularly even in the media, or should that be especially in the media?

    Two words that get muddled often and which always surprises me, while not perhaps a true pair, is loan and lend. An accountant generally does not confuse these words but borrowers frequently do.


    • libroediting

      May 27, 2011 at 10:34 am

      Thanks Jan! I’m going to have to do one on “pedal” and “peddle” too, which does seem astonishing to me!


  2. Diane (Inver)

    May 27, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    These are two I always have to think about when I am writing…thanks Liz.


    • libroediting

      May 27, 2011 at 4:18 pm

      Thanks, Diane – really good to know I am actually helping people with these!



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