Joanita Wibowo


Affect or effect?: How to use the terms

Affect or effect?: How to use the terms

It is one of the most popular conundrums in the English language. Choosing between the word “affect” and “effect” can indeed be confusing – they are both verbs and nouns, and their meanings overlap.

To help quash any doubt, there is a simple trick. In most contexts, the acronym RAVEN – Remember Affect Verb, Effect Noun – can be applied.

Affect is more often used as a verb, meaning to influence, produce a change, make a difference in something. For example, bad habits affect your health, an argument affects your relationship, and a nightmare will affect your mood.

Effect is generally used as a noun, meaning a result or a consequence. The group warns of the effects of climate change. Cycling has positive effects on your health. The effect of the policies has been overwhelming.

The word can also be used as part of phrasal verbs, such as take effect (rather than affect) and in effect. For example, the new rule may take effect soon and once it does, it is in effect.

Keep in mind that some exceptions apply – affect can be used as a noun, and effect can be used as a verb. In the noun context, affect means a feeling or an emotion: “My friend has a sad affect”. Effect as a verb could be defined as to bring about or cause something to happen: “The government is unable to effect any change”, or “The tax cut is hoped to effect economic growth”.

These cases are less common, but it is good to understand how the two words can be used in different ways.