Difference between "affect" and "effect"

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by Abstract, May 15, 2008.

  1. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    #1
    Help me out here. I'm trying to work on this. All the sources that try to explain the difference seem to use a contradictory example where either word would probably work, as they are used in a similar way in these examples.

    Take the OSX Oxford (American) dictionary for one. Use the Thesaurus and type in "affect".


    PS: Grammar is...I don't like. :(
     
  2. Chaszmyr macrumors 601

    Chaszmyr

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    #2
    The difference is subtle, sometimes circumstantial, sometimes nonexistent, and I don't know that I could explain it any better than whatever you've read. Here's what you need to know to get it right more often than most people do, though: 'Affect' is virtually never a noun, almost always a verb. 'Effect' is usually a noun, and while it can be used as a verb, 'affect' can usually be used in those situations, so more often than not you'll go with that one.


    According to the dictionary, the differences between the verb 'affect' and the verb 'effect' is that the former means "to act on" or "to move" while the latter means "to bring about, accomplish." Again, though, subtle distinction that you don't really need to fully understand to get it right 90% of the time. This is mostly because the type of sentence which would demand 'effect' be used as a verb is rare; it invokes an uncommon usage of the word.


    While we're on the subject of using proper English, let's talk use/mention distinction. When you are referring to the actual word (rather than the meaning or reference of the word) you use scare quotes rather than full quotes.
     
  3. riscy macrumors 6502a

    riscy

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    #3
    General rule of thumb:

    to affect = a verb
    the effect = a noun

    although there is also to effect (eg an escape)
     
  4. karenflower macrumors 6502a

    karenflower

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    #4
    Do do do do dooo Grammar Girl! *batman theme* :D

     
  5. Abstract thread starter macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    You mean like those single quotation marks (') rather than double (")?


    Still have no idea what you meant by your explanation. I'll give you an example of what's confusing. It's from the OSX dictionary widget.

    1) "My father's warnings had no effect on my adventurousness."

    2) "What you eat can affect your mood."


    To me, the usage of the two words is the same, or very similar. The sentences have a similar structure. The first part of the sentence (ie: "My father's warnings" and "What you eat") has some impact on whatever is mentioned in the 2nd part of the sentence (ie: "on my adventurousness" and "your mood").

    Do you feel my pain? Seems contradictory, as the usage seems identical.
     
  6. siurpeeman macrumors 603

    siurpeeman

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    #6
    in "no effect," effect acts as a noun, which is why it begins with an "e." used as a verb, it would be affect, as in the rain affecting the hair.
     
  7. TBi macrumors 68030

    TBi

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    #7
    That makes sense. It says "had no effect", the verb in that sentence being 'had'. In the second sentence 'affect' is the verb.


    If you said "they had no similarities", you wouldn't think "similar" is the verb.
     
  8. Lau Guest

    #8
    You could think of it as something has an effect (or no effect) on something (e.g. the rain had no effect on her hair) but if you're using affect, there is no an or no (e.g. the rain is affecting her hair).

    That's really just how you know it's a verb or a noun – to affect, it affects, she affects (as in a verb with no 'an' or 'no') as opposed to a noun, as in a thing (an effect).

    If that's any less confusing. :eek:
     
  9. ErikCLDR macrumors 68000

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    #9
    Yup.

    Just think you use affect when something changes something. The change itself is the effect.
     
  10. macwall macrumors 6502

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    #10
    don't worry. it's the same word. totally interchangeable.
     
  11. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

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    #11
    No, they really aren't. You're not going to impress many literate people if you can't keep the difference between nouns and verbs straight. :p

    FWIW there are also some less common meanings of the words.

    Affect is used as a noun, for instance, commonly in psychology and medicine, but it means something different, specifically behaviors that are usually associated with emotion. So one might say that a person's affect was dysphoric, euphoric, tearful, happy, etc.
     
  12. macwall macrumors 6502

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    #12
    also, there's supposed to be an apostrophe before every "s" that end's a word.
     
  13. motulist macrumors 68040

    motulist

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    #13
    Basically just think that affect means "will cause to happen" and effect means "the result that has happened." I didn't major in english language studies, so this is just as far as I know.


    So...

    "Plugging in your lamp affects a change in the bulb's brightness."

    But...

    "The increase in brightness is an effect that was caused by plugging in your lamp."
     
  14. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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    #14
    Incorrect. "Plugging in your lamp effects a change in the bulb's brightness." To effect as a verb means to cause or to bring about. To affect as a verb means to have an influence on. So, "Plugging in your lamp affects the bulb's brightness."

    And macwall, I have no idea what you mean by
    but it is complete nonsense.
     
  15. Nermal Moderator

    Nermal

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    #15
    [​IMG]
     
  16. Nugget macrumors 65816

    Nugget

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    #16
    He was just making a joke and I guess it flew over your head.

    Regarding affect and effect, What do you expect? This is just an online message board. Nobody here is going to win the pullet surprise for their posts. Errors like confusing "effect" and 'affect' are pardon parcel with people who learn the language through talking and not through reading. I could of made that same mistake if I hadn't learned these words by reading them before hearing them. Sadly, people who don't read just can't cut the muster. Alot of people would just assume watch a movie instead of read a book and it shows in there writing. For all intensive purposes these people are only exposed to new words by hearing them and they never know the proper spelling. It's simple cause and affect.

    This whole concept of oral language learning really peeked my interest a few months ago and I found that there are lots of web sights that explain this issue in great detail. I've come to turns with it, but the sad thing is that these loosers look like idiots. It's a doggy dog world out there and they're selling themselves short. One mispeled post to the internet and -- walla -- the whole world knows they don't read books. I don't mean that there dumb persay, just that there probably illiterate.

    You might think that this is all just a mute point but I prefer to air on the side of caution. I had a piffany about this and realized that learning to spell words is a right of passage that we all should go through as children. Supposably If you don't read and skip that important step you'll never be a bonified grammar nazi like me. What can I say? People who confuse "effect" and 'affect' just demonstrate that ignorance is blitz.
     
  17. motulist macrumors 68040

    motulist

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    #17
    I see what you did there. ;)
     
  18. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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    #18
    I fear he was not, although I'm pretty certain you are.
     
  19. louiek macrumors 6502

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    #19
    That's your opinion, but most of us could care less.
     
  20. macwall macrumors 6502

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  21. aLoC macrumors 6502a

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    #21
    I always thought "affect" meant to pretend you're something you're not. e.g. affect an air of sophistication. All other times I use "effect."
     
  22. luminosity macrumors 65816

    luminosity

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    #22
    Everyone has those few things they're naturally good at, and using both these words correctly is one of them for me.

    "Her affect was positive, but the effect of that affect was negative."
     
  23. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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    #23
    That is another correct usage of affect.
     
  24. iMacZealot macrumors 68020

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    #24
    You couldn't be more wrong. I'm willing to bet that most people here don't know how to diagram a sentence, let alone know what each part is, but since it's still fresh in my high school mind, and I'm procrastinating real homework, I went ahead and diagrammed the two sentences for you.

    So, in the first sentence, 'warnings' is the subject. It is modified by 'my' and 'father's'. (Yes, it would make sense that 'my' would modify 'father's', since it's not my warnings, but 'my' and 'father's' are adjectives, and adjectives can't modify other adjectives.) 'Had' is the verb. Pretty simple. 'Effect' is a direct object, and direct objects are nouns. (think: warnings had what? warnings had effect) 'No' is another adjective modifying 'effect'. 'On my adventurousness' is a prepositional phrase modifying effect; 'on' is the preposition, 'adventurousness' is the object of a preposition (which is a noun), and 'my' is an adjective modifying 'adventurousness'. Sentence #1 is relatively simple.

    The second sentence is a little more complex (but not a complex sentence, technically speaking.) 'What you eat', believe it or not, is a noun clause (I think that's what it's called, correct me if I'm wrong), which acts as a noun, and therefore can be the subject, and is in this case. On the technical level, clauses are not ordered in that way, and the word order is switched around to 'you eat what', with 'you' being the subject of the clause, 'eat' the verb of the clause, and 'what' as the direct object of the clause (direct objects can be either nouns or pronouns.) 'can affect' is the verb of the sentence. 'Had' has a very different role in the two sentences. 'Had' is an action verb in the first one and is the only verb. In the second one, 'affect' is the action verb, and 'had' is the helping verb. Then, 'mood' is the direct object of the second sentence, with 'your' modifying it as an adjective.

    The two sentences, as you can see just by the lines of the diagram, have different structures and are not the same. Even though 'had' and 'affect/effect' both appear in each sentences, they are grammatically used differently. Long story short, 'effect' is a noun, and 'affect' is a verb, in most cases.

    This is what two years of Honors English got me. I hope it didn't go over your head. :p Here are the diagrams:
     

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  25. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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    #25
    Two wasted years, I fear. ;)
     

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