When Do We Use “Affect” and “Effect”?

In previous videos, we’ve explored differences between “Advice” and “Advise, “Practice” and “Practise” and “Compliment and Complement”. These words are often confused with each other and students often use them interchangeably or wrongly.

Today, we’re going to be looking at yet another pair of commonly mistaken words. Our pair of often mistaken words is – “Affect” and “Effect”. How do I use them correctly? What’s the difference between them? Continue watching this video to find out!

P.S. Take note of errata at 0:27 – the correct phrase should be “pair of words”.

Let’s first take a look at how the two words are used in sentences:

  1. Pollution negatively affects the environment.
  2. The effects of pollution can already be seen on the environment.

In the case of the first sentence, the word ‘affects’ shows that pollution has DONE something to or CHANGED the environment in a negative way. As ‘affects’ shows an action being done, it is therefore a verb.

However, in the second sentence, the word ‘effects’ points to the CHANGES that are happening to the environment that are caused by pollution. Therefore, it is a noun.

Hence, whether we use ‘affect’ or ‘effect’ depends on whether we are referring to a verb or a noun. Are you talking about a change that is caused by an event or action? For instance: This cream has such a positive effect on my skin! In this case, it is ‘effect’ with an ‘e’ because you are talking about the positive change the cream has on your skin – perhaps making it smoother.

However, if you DO something that influences or changes something or a particular situation, for example – I made a terrible decision that affected my life – then you need to use ‘affect’ with an ‘a’ as it shows how the decision has influenced or changed your life. In other words, to affect something is to have an effect on it!

So, how do you remember how to tell them apart? A helpful way to remember the difference is the mnemonic RAVEN:

  • Remember
  • Affect
  • Verb
  • Effect
  • Noun

To see if you have understood the difference between ‘affect’ and ‘effect’, try the following questions. Remember to apply RAVEN!

Q1. Smoking (affects / effects) your health.
Q2. This building was badly (affected / effected) by the fire last week.
Q3. The people in this town are suffering from the (affects / effects) of the drought.

Did you manage to choose the correct option? Let’s check your answers now!

Q1. Smoking affects your health.

If you have applied RAVEN, you would have realised that the answer must be a verb because the sentence is referring to how smoking (action) influences your health negatively.

Q2. This building was badly affected by the fire last week.

Similarly, in this question, the answer needs to be a verb to show how the building had been badly “changed” or “influenced” by the fire – in this case, it was probably damaged.

Q3. The people in this town are suffering from the effects of the drought.

Unlike the previous two questions, the answer to this one should be the noun ‘effects’ to show the negative outcomes of the drought on the people. Take note that the article ‘the’ that comes before ‘effects’ is a clue that signals that you need to follow it with a noun.

I hope this has helped you to differentiate yet another 2 commonly confused words. Remember to apply the mnemonic RAVEN whenever you are in doubt as to whether the answer should be ‘affect’ or ‘effect’. Are there other 2 words that you have difficulty differentiating? Tell us in the comments section so we can help you sort them out!


Grammar Grandma Bites – Lil’ but Mighty’s P5/6 Grammar Self-Paced Online Course!

1. Focuses on more than 10 types of subject-verb agreement questions e.g. Neither/Either, question tag, extra information etc.
2. 14 Overall revision worksheets and 11 topical worksheets included (over 200 practice questions in total)
3. Answers clearly annotated to show important clues and to explain the choice for every question
4. Reference to matching videos included for each question (Allows pupils to revisit the relevant strategy if necessary)

Group 48 25 1
Mr. Joshua

Mr Joshua believes that learning does not happen in a vacuum and strives to bring the real world into the classroom. He enjoys telling stories and works hard to ensure his classroom is a welcoming environment in which all students are comfortable to share their thoughts and ideas – It’s fine to make mistakes as long as we learn from them. Mr Joshua has a passion for English Literature and encourages his students to read widely and write earnestly.

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