How to use 'affect' and 'effect'
Do you sometime get confused between ‘affect’ and ‘effect’? Although they have exactly the same pronunciation, the first is a verb and the latter is a noun.
In this lesson you’ll learn how to use ‘effect’ effectively and precisely in IELTS Writing Task 2 and Speaking.
You’ll also learn which collocations you can use to boost your score, and some high-level synonyms to get you up to Band 7 and beyond.
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).
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. Collocations for 'effect'
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,
- adverse, catastrophic, damaging, devastating, disastrous, 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 interchangeably 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’:
See below for a note about repercussions, ramifications and implications.
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.
Synonyms for ‘adverse effects’
You can use all* of the options below to describe negative effects:
- something that happens as a result of an action or event, usually negative
e.g. A petrol ban will have (far-reaching) consequences.
- an unintended consequence, usually negative
e.g. A petrol ban will have severe (economic) repercussions.
- a complex consequence, usually negative
e.g. A petrol ban will have (social/legal) ramifications.
- a possible future consequence.
e.g. A petrol ban will have (wider) implications.
*Note this example, which only takes ‘consequence’:
Many believe that poverty is a direct consequence of overpopulation’ (not repercussion/ramification/implication/effect)
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.
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