Commonly Confused Words: Affect vs. Effect

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What does each word mean?

Affect is used as a verb meaning ‘to make a difference to’, ‘to make an impression on’, or ‘to pretend to have or feel’. Here is affect used in some example sentences:

  • Have you thought about how your behaviour might affect those around you?
  • Using a computer all day has really affected my eyesight – I need to get new glasses.
  • Even though she felt out of her depth, she affected an air of authority.

You can also learn about the word in Unit 6 of the Spellzone course.

Effect is a noun which refers to a change that is the result or a consequence of an action or cause. 

Here is effect used in some example sentences:

  • Have you thought about the effect your behaviour might have on those around you?
  • The treatment works well, but it may cause some uncomfortable side effects.
  • The film made use of many different special effects.

Where does each word come from?

Both affect and effect come from Latin roots.

In English, affect has been used to mean ‘make an impression on’ since the 1630s, and to mean ‘pretend to feel something’ since the 1660s. Both come from the Latin ‘affect are’ meaning ‘to strive after, aim at’ and ‘to do something to’. Effect has been used in English since the 1580s and comes from the Latin ‘effectus’ meaning ‘accomplishment, performance’.

Are there any tricks to help remember the difference between these words?

  • Affect is a verb and is used to describe an action.
  • Effect is a noun and is used to describe the end consequence.
  • Think of the phrase ‘Cause and Effect’ – use the e at the end of ‘cause’ to remind you that you need to begin the word Effect with an e too.

What words do you constantly mix up? Let us know and we’ll cover them in our Commonly Confused Words series.

Have a great week!

Sources: The Online Etymology Dictionary

15 Mar 2016
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