Affect vs. Effect: When to Use Each

Sometimes, the English language is really silly. There are a lot of words that sound the same but are spelled differently and used differently, for virtually no reason. The words “affect” and “effect” are a classic example of two words that simply do not need to be this confusing.

Luckily, I have sat through enough boring grammar classes to understand the difference and hopefully I can help sort it out a little. Let’s dive right in, shall wee?


In general, the word affect is used as a verb. A good way to remember this is that affect is an action. If you’re talking about something that someone does, it’s affect.

Example: The book really affected Sally’s opinion; she had never thought about parenting in that way before.

Because the book is acting upon Sally, we are using the word as an action so we say affect.


In contrast, effect is used as a noun. The effect of something is the end-result. If you’re talking about an end product or situation, you’re going to want to use effect.

Example: The trial had a negative effect on the small town.

Because the negative feelings are the end product, we are using effect.

Sound good? Great! Because it’s about to get a little bit more complicated.

But wait! There’s more!

Another common usage of the word affect is completely unrelated to the whole affect/effect mess. The word has a completely different meaning. Here, affect is a noun and is used to mean a person’s general mood or demeanor. In this case, affect means a person’s attitude.

Example: Bill was always smiling and laughing; his positive affect put people at ease.

Because Bill has a positive presence or attitude, we’re going to use affect.


I know that that was pretty complicated, so I’ve made a list of some resources that may be helpful for you in the future.

First, I have made this handy chart. Hopefully, you find it helpful.


Effect End-result Her words had the intended effect.
Affect Attitude The scar left him with a frightening affect.


Affect Action The painting profoundly affected his feelings.

Next, here are some links of people who probably did a whole lot better at explaining this than I did. Good luck!

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