Grammar Guru: Affect Vs. Effect

grammar guru

Here at the Grammar Guru, we recognise that some words are easy to mix up.

This could be either because they sound alike, or they appear to perform the same function. We’ve actually covered a few in the past, like “that” or “which” and “pique”/”peek”/”peak”.

Today it’s the turn of “affect”. Or is it “effect”? Or both?

Although these words both sound and look alike, there is a fundamental difference between them.


Put simply, “affect” is a verb. “To affect” means to influence something. In particular, it can be used in emotional situations. For example:

Iain witnessed an affecting scene.


“How does that affect me exactly?” Iain asked.


“Effect”, however, is a noun. For example:

Iain never expected the whisky to have such a positive effect.


The Butterfly Effect deals with unpredictability in complex systems. A butterfly can flap its wings in Peking and in Central Park you get rain instead of sunshine.

Here, “effect” refers to the result of an action.

But it’s not that easy

Because it never is!

“Effect”can also be a verb. “To effect” means to make something happen, like “to effect change”.

That’s the only trap here . . . keep this in mind and you’ll never choose the wrong word again!

For more words of advice from the Grammar Guru, click the tag below. You can also take a look at our other writing tools by clicking here.

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Iain McDonald

Iain is Digital Content Editor at the "Friend", making him responsible for managing flow of interesting and entertaining content on the magazine's website and social media channels.