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I've noticed that some people use effect and affect interchangeably. What are the differences between these two and when are the proper situations to use each of them?

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It's interesting that this is tagged as a homophone, since I personally pronounce, affect as /a'fekt/ whereas I pronounce "effect" as /ɪːfekt/. Of course, this varies widely by region. That is, I have a short "ah" sound in "affect", and a long "ee" sound in "effect". –  Vincent McNabb Aug 9 '10 at 10:00
@Vincent I rolled it back, there should be a better tag for these kind of questions. I couldn't come up with anything interesting. Any ideas? –  Hamid Aug 9 '10 at 14:20
I admit, my pronunciation suffers because I speak too quickly, but for the most part, I've heard "effect" and "affect" pronounced with the same "uh" sound. –  kitukwfyer Aug 9 '10 at 20:47
I said it was interesting, not that it was wrong. Homophones very often depend on the accent of the speaker. For instance, on "affect", 99% of people don't use the /a/ sound, but I do. I think homophone is indeed an appropriate tag. –  Vincent McNabb Aug 10 '10 at 0:17
Relevant: xkcd.com/326 –  Dan Burton May 24 '11 at 21:30

4 Answers 4

up vote 34 down vote accepted

The noun is usually "effect" -- unless in more formal or literary contexts in which case "affect" as a noun can mean feeling or emotion.

The verb is generally "affect", although "effect" is possible if the meaning is "put into place" or "carry out".

Here are some example sentences:

"His plans had no effect on me."

"His disconsolate eyes brought on a sad affect."

"His plans affected me."

"He effected a plan to change the world."

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-1 The noun can be "affect" under certain circumstances. –  waiwai933 Aug 9 '10 at 4:36
What circumstances? –  delete Aug 9 '10 at 4:43
Actually, yes, in more formal contexts usually dealing with psychology, affect can be a noun. Am fixing up now. –  Sarhanis Aug 9 '10 at 5:03
+1 for bringing up affect as a noun, fascinating word, hard to get your mind around what it actually means, like reading Heidegger or something: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affect_%28psychology%29 –  Edward Tanguay Aug 9 '10 at 15:27
Yep, each word can be used as both a noun and a verb and 3 of the 4 uses are related to the same concept, causation. No wonder people get confused: It's confusing! –  Joshua Karstendick Nov 4 '10 at 15:47

The "common errors" site mentions 3 different meanings for affect (verb):

  • When “affect” is accented on the final syllable (a-FECT), it is usually a verb meaning “have an influence on”:
“The million-dollar donation from the industrialist 
 did not affect my vote against the Clean Air Act.”
  • to make a display of or deliberately cultivate.
    Occasionally a pretentious person is said to affect an artificial air of sophistication.
    Speaking with a borrowed French accent or ostentatiously wearing a large diamond ear stud might be an affectation.

  • emotion.” (when the word is accented on the first syllable (AFF-ect)).
    In this case the word is used mostly by psychiatrists and social scientists—people who normally know how to spell it.

When you affect a situation, you have an effect on it.

Less common is a verb meaning “to create” (to cause to come into being):

“I’m trying to effect a change in the way we purchase widgets.”

The Merriam-Webster details:

The verb effect goes beyond mere influence; it refers to actual achievement of a final result.

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Now I think I am even more confused! –  jp2code Jun 14 '11 at 20:03
So I think an easy to use rule is: If it is a think (noun) or means 'to create', then use "effect", else use "affect". Anyone comments from the experts out there? –  Jeff Mar 14 '12 at 22:36

The rule that mostly works it this: affect = verb, think "a" for action, wheras effect = noun, the result of the action

to remember: "a" comes before "e" in the alphabet, and you must affect something to cause an effect

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Unfortunately, there is both a noun and a verb 'affect' and a noun and a verb 'effect'! –  jbeldock Jan 30 '14 at 7:00

Affect(verb) - to have negative impact.( It is mostly used as a negative word). Effect(verb) - to bring about, implement, carry out.

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Affect isn't mostly negative. –  Leo King Aug 5 '14 at 22:47

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