1. The simple difference
affect = a verb (to influence something)
e.g. This will affect society.
effect = a noun (the result of a change)
e.g This will have an effect on society.
2. How to remember the difference
Find your own memory jog. Here are some ways my students use:
- Affect is an Action
- Affect is A Verb
- Effect is an effort to remember
- If something affects you, you feel the effect (alphabetical order A – E)
- Any other clever suggestions? Post them in the comments!
3. How to use 'effect' (basic rules)
Most IELTS Task 2 essays will expect you to discuss the effects or results in one way or another.
[Past] This (has) had a positive effect/impact on society.
[Present] This has/is having a negative effect on the way we learn.
[Future] This will/is going to affect the way we work.
4. How to use 'effect' more effectively
To stand out and increase your Band Score, you need to be PRECISE about the effects.
I recommend that you always use the noun form (effect) as it is more formal.
Here are some ways adjectives you can use to be more precise (Band 7 criteria).
- big, considerable, dramatic, enormous, great, high, huge, important, main, major, powerful, profound, real, significant, strong, substantial, tremendous
- limited, marginal, minimal, negligible
- growing, increasing
e.g. The uneven impact of the debt crisis on developing countries needs to be addressed.
- combined, cumulative, knock-on
e.g. The cumulative impact of negative feedback is obvious.
- decisive, direct
e.g. Intensive farming has a direct physical impact on the landscape.
- immediate, instant, short-term
- lasting, long-term
- far-reaching, wider
- future, likely, possible, potential
e.g. It is important to appreciate the wider impact and implications of such a policy.
- beneficial, favourable, positive
- adverse, catastrophic, damaging, devastating, disastrous, heavy, negative, serious, severe
5. The ‘discussion clock/thinking tree’ types
- human The severest human impact on wildlife is the loss of habitat.
- physical, visual We need to reduce the visual impact of wind farms on the landscape
- cultural, ecological, economic, emotional, environmental, financial, health, political, psychological, social
e.g. The environmental impact of wind farms needs to be assessed.
Also useful for IELTS: the greenhouse effect (the gradual warming of the air surrounding the Earth as a result of heat being trapped by pollution)
5. 'effect' vs 'impact'
Is there a difference between ‘effect’ and ‘impact?
Although there are slight differences, for the purposes of IELTS you can use them interchangably as nouns.
From the research that I’ve carried out, it seems ‘impact’ tends to be more profound.
Read more here if you have time but the difference is not serious enough to worry about.
Other synonyms for ‘effect’:
According to Longman’s online dictionary:
Effect = a change that is caused by an event, action etc
Impact = the effect or influence that an event, situation etc has on someone or something
6. Other ways of expressing effects
Remember that there are lots of other ways of expressing effects very precisely – I covered these examples below in my Advantages/Disadvantages Lesson.
The next time you mention the effect of something, make sure you go through this list and choose the best adjective to describe the impact more precisely.
Get more help with IELTS grammar
Get everything you need for IELTS in one convenient place – the Members Academy.
With videos, worksheets, ebooks, mindmaps, interactive activities, premium online resources, live lessons and weekly writing tasks and feedback and private, supportive community the Members Academy will save you time and money – you might even enjoy it!