when I say A affects B, does it imply that A has a negative effect on B?



Sunshine affects my mood.

That sentence is entirely neutral; it's impossible to say whether I feel better or worse in sunshine. One might assume that I enjoy it, or perhaps it exacerbates a skin condition. You can't tell.

Very often there is enough context to determine whether the effect of A on B is positive or negative...

Sunshine affects my mood. I'm always smiling.
Sunshine affects my mood. I try to stay indoors.

...but the context is necessary. The initial sentence on its own is not enough.

  • So if I ask someone What are the industries that are affected by Industry X? It really means both positive and negative, right? – Vivek Todi Feb 10 '15 at 11:22
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    Without more context, yes. To take a poor example, "What are the industries that are affected by the American car industry?" -- there are part manufacturers upstream and dealerships downstream. But if the car industry is in decline, then bicycle manufacturers might be benefiting. – Andrew Leach Feb 10 '15 at 11:29
  • So to frame a question or statement which includes affect, we should also provide context. – Vivek Todi Feb 10 '15 at 11:35
  • @VivekTodi - "affect" does NOT connote either negative or positive result, affect merely indicates that something influenced or caused some response in another thing. the further details you provide will indicate or determine whether or not the affect is/was negative or positive. – user98990 Feb 10 '15 at 12:12
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    Though AHDEL and RHK Webster's don't include the caveat, Collins gives affect .1. to act upon or influence, esp in an adverse way. >> I must argue that this indicates there is a connotation of a negative effect in an uncontextualised statement (and OP's is certainly that). An unaccompanied 'You have to say the weather affected his chances' would most often be construed as 'in a deleterious way', although this may not necessarily be the intended meaning. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 12 '15 at 7:58

It would be sensible to define your terms. Which sense of imply would you like us to guess you're using (imply 2. (Logic) to suggest or involve as a necessary consequence [Collins])?


The best ways to investigate this sort of claim do include looking in decent dictionaries.

Compare the first-given (and in a non-historical dictionary, this indicates frequency of this sense being the intended one) definitions for the transitive usage/s at AHDEL, Collins and RHK Webster's:


.1. To have an influence on or effect a change in: Inflation affects the buying power of the dollar. [AHDEL]

.1. to act upon or influence, esp in an adverse way: damp affected the sparking plugs.[Collins]

.1. to produce an effect or change in: Cold weather affected the crops.[RHK Webster's]

So there is at least a connotation of a negative (in the sense of adverse) effect. The Collins definition pushes this reasonably close to denotation, but it's probably justifiable to average these analyses to get a general picture.

This is doubtless compounded by the most usual sense of the homonym:

affect[2] 1. To put on a false show of; simulate [AHDEL]

This is not to say that these vibes will be picked up identically by all people, and certainly not in all contexts (The mass of a planet will obviously affect its gravity).

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    My personal impression is that 'affect' is generally used to convey a negative influence ... but that is probably more a question of usage rather than semantic!! – user66974 Feb 10 '15 at 11:56
  • Surely usage and semantics are inseparable. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 10 '15 at 11:58
  • But your dictionary examples are not evidence that affect connotes negative - crops + cold = negative; damp + electricity = negative etc. The negatives are in the nature of the examples. Words can be misused, surely, and meaning is just as surely affected. – user98990 Feb 10 '15 at 12:25
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    I will always have the Collins caveat 'esp in an adverse way' at the back of my mind (if not more prominent in my thoughts) whenever I encounter 'affect'. Yes, I will rule out the 'esp in an adverse way' denotation where I consider it unwarranted, but 'affect' connotes the negative flavour as long as at least I (and, from their question, OP) am alive and relatively compos mentis. It was mentioned in a previous question that a 'connotation' is attached to a single word / lexeme and needs only one person to pick up on it. Though Collins' 'esp in an adverse way' guarantees I'm not alone. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 10 '15 at 12:53
  • Subjective? Are you saying that Collins has got it wrong? They only report usages they find, so they must have found a fair number of them to mention 'especially in an adverse way'. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 10 '15 at 14:14

Maybe my view is contrarian to the ones here. Yes I do think 'affect' has a negative connotation. To start with 'effect' is a noun and 'affect' is a verb. Effect is usually qualified (with an adjective) to give a +ve or -ve connotation eg. Lack of regular sleep could have a detrimental effect on your studies. 'Sunshine affects my mood' is not a common usage like say 'gloomy weather affects my mood' and obviously it puts a -ve connotation. While one can use say 'spur' to indicate a +ve effective - for eg, morning jog spurs me to start the day on a bright note. At the same, for eg, A lengthy meeting or discussions affects my schedule - it can be read in only one way (-ve). To summarize, I think effect has a neutral, if not +ve, ring to it while affect has a -ve ring to it.


AFFECT does not connote either negative or positive result, "affect" merely indicates that something influenced or caused some response or change in another person/object/event. The further details you provide will "affect" or determine whether or not the import of your expression is understood as negative or positive.

What follows are the first 4 results I encountered on a keyword search of AFFECT (note: these definitions are not cherry-picked to support my position. I'm sure you will find just as many dictionaries that disagree with my contention.)

AFFECT (verb): 1. the conscious subjective aspect of feeling or emotion; 2. affect, impact, bear upon, bear on, touch on, touch; (verb) have an effect upon. "Will the new rules affect me."; 3. affect (verb): act physically on; have an effect upon. “the medicine affects my heart rate" 4. Involve, affect, regard (verb) connect closely and often incriminatingly. "This new ruling affects your business"; 5. feign, sham, pretend, affect, dissemble (verb): make believe with the intent** to deceive "He feigned that he was ill"; "He shammed a headache" 6. affect, impress, move, strike (verb): have an emotional or cognitive impact upon “This child impressed me as unusually mature”; This behavior struck me as odd” Definitions.net

AFFECT (verb): 1. to act upon; to produce an effect or change upon; 2. affect (verb): to influence or move, as the feelings or passions; to touch; 3. affect (verb): to love; to regard with affection; 4. affect (verb): to show a fondness for; to like to use or practice; to choose; hence, to frequent habitually; 5. affect (verb): to dispose or incline; 6. affect (verb): to aim at; to aspire; to covet; 7. affect (verb): to tend to by affinity or disposition; 8. affect (verb) to make a show of; to put on a pretense of; to feign; to affect ignorance; 9. affect (verb): to assign; to appoint; 10. affect (noun): affection; inclination; passion; feeling; disposition. Webster Dictionary

AFFECT (verb): affect; 3rd person present: affects; past tense: affected; past participle: affected; gerund or present participle: affecting

have an effect on; make a difference to. "the dampness began to affect my health" synonyms: have an effect on, influence, act on, work on, have an impact on, impact;



1:obsolete : feeling, affection

2: the conscious subjective aspect of an emotion considered apart from bodily changes; also: a set of observable manifestations of a subjectively experienced emotion (patients … showed perfectly normal reactions and affects—Oliver Sacks)


  • And yet Collins has 'affect: 1. to act upon or influence, esp in an adverse way'. And Macmillan even has the sense 'to cause physical damage to something ... Synonyms and related words To damage or spoil something: damage, spoil, mark, harm, stain, mar, disfigure, hurt, injure, take its toll...'. A connotation is subjective, not a nuance that is necessarily picked up by everyone: it is a nuance that some readers etc perceive. And the fact that the Collins compilers stress the 'adverse' aspect means it is a connotation. That doesn't mean it may not be used as a straight synonym for 'cause – Edwin Ashworth Feb 13 '15 at 0:46
  • I took your last comment as a prompt to avoid making unsupported contentions, even in comment. And I would agree. Sometimes I get, how should I say this ... immoderate. I don't think you're wrong. I'm sure just as many dictionaries disagree with my contention as agree. Yes, in many ways connotations, like beauty ... – user98990 Feb 13 '15 at 0:55
  • ... change'. Indeed, context is a far more telling factor in judging positive or negative influence. But an uncontextualised 'It affected their performance' would rarely be taken as meaning that there was an improvement. Josh61 says 'My personal impression is that 'affect' is generally used to convey a negative influence ...'; he's picking up on a negative connotation (so there is one). As does Raghuraman R in his answer. It's even possible some people might pick up on a positive connotation, but nobody and no dictionary has mentioned this. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 13 '15 at 0:55
  • Psychologists/psychiatrists use "positive affect" quite often. – user98990 Feb 13 '15 at 0:57
  • We're really ...aah ...discussing what 'connote' means here. I'd use 'affect' quite happily for +ve, neutral or -ve influences. Connotation refers to the wide array of positive and negative associations that most words naturally carry with them, whereas denotation is the precise, literal definition of a word that might be found in a dictionary. [Banforth] And OP didn't define how he's using 'imply': demand or suggest. // Glad to see you've included some decent references! – Edwin Ashworth Feb 13 '15 at 1:01

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