Is Affect Different from Effect? How to Tell the Difference

The English language is not necessarily the most accessible language to master. Just as you are getting comfortable with your current level of knowledge or use, something new comes up that you have to struggle to understand. Whether that’s a grammatical rule you were unaware of or a punctual sin you committed in complete omission. Whatever it may be, there is always room for one more confusing or tricky aspect of the English language to learn and get used to.

If you have ever been flagged for incorrectly using the words ‘effect’ and ‘affect’, you know how frustrating this can be. Why do these two words sound so similar? Why are their meanings so similar, and how are you supposed to know when to use one and not the other?

Thankfully, this is everything you need to know about affect vs. effect, so you don’t have to keep guessing how to use them properly.

What is A Homophone?

Homophones are one category of the English language dedicated entirely to words that are easy to misuse or mix up. Homophones are simple words with the same phenetic presentation but are not spelled differently. These are words like plain and plane, or know and no.

Most of the common homophones are easy to spot and are such a daily part of the vocabulary that learning their differences, despite their apparent similarities, is not difficult. Unfortunately, that’s not necessarily the case regarding the homophone’s affect and effect.

Not only do affect and effect has a similar common enunciation, but they are both very similar in meaning. They are so similar that they are two of the most commonly misused and confused homophones in the English language.

So why do people struggle when it comes to affect vs. effect, and why is it such a challenge to learn how to use it correctly?

Nouns And Verbs

Before you start getting worried and feel all nervous about the use of ‘nouns and verbs, this isn’t a grade school assignment! One of the best ways to understand the proper use and spelling of the words ‘affect’ and ‘effect’ is to understand how they are meant to be used. Because both words are so similar in their enunciation and spelling and their contextual uses, knowing which one acts as a verb and which one as a noun will help you distinguish your use properly.

The Word Effect is Used as a Noun

The word effect is most commonly used as a noun and not as a verb. This is important to know how to use it properly. The word effect refers to a state of being resulting from something. This makes it a subject of attention, and it doesn’t describe anything the way adverbs or adjective does.

For instance, when referring to a new change resulting from something that has already taken place, you would use the word effect as a noun.

Example: The man’s speech was persuasive, and it played a noticeable effect on the audience.

The effect is seen here as the result of the speech becoming a noun.

The Word Affect As a Verb

The word ‘affect’ is most often used as a verb, which indicates something that is actively working on a subject. However, this can get tricky because both ‘effect’ and ‘affect’ indicate some kind of change from the normal.

In this case, the word ‘affect’ would be sued to show the action of work.

For example, His speech was affecting the listeners negatively.

In this example, the word affect is used to show an action changing something rather than indicating a state of change.

How To Proofread Affect and Effect

One of the best ways to prove your work when it comes to using these two words correctly is to ask yourself if the word is working on something or showing something that has already resulted?

This can be tricky to do, as there are specific uses of the word effect that are indicative of future effects, such as:

Example: The relational effects from the argument had not been determined.

This indicates a future state of being, though.

On the other hand, if you determine the proper use of the word ‘affect’, simply ask yourself if the word is working on the subject and acting as a verb, showing an action of some sort.