‘Affect’ and ‘effect’ are confusing for everyone – not just for learners.
They have exactly the same pronunciation* BUT:
- ‘affect” is a verb (an action)
- ‘effect’ is a noun.
I ALWAYS have to stop and think before I write ‘affect’ as a verb – it somehow just looks wrong! (Probably because I think of the words “affection” and “affectation” which are nouns).
In this lesson you’ll learn how to use ‘affect’ (verb) and ‘effect’ (noun) 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.
*The pronunciation is often wrong. The stress is on the SECOND SYLLABLE, so the first syllable ‘e’ or ‘a’ is always a weak sound: /ɪˈfɛkt/.
'affect' and 'effect': examples
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 aneffect on society.
3 ways to remember the difference between 'affect' and 'effect
Find your own memory jog. Here are some ways my students use:
- Affect is an Action.
- Effect is an End (result)
- If something affects you, you feel the effect (alphabetical order A – E).
Another method I use is to think of the term “special effects” in movies (‘effect’ is countable and takes an ‘s’ in the plural form, so that helps me remember).
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.
[See IELTS Cause and Effect essays for more on this]
4. Collocations with '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'
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.
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
Ways of expressing negative 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)
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Get more help here:
How to talk about cause and effect in IELTS Task 2 Writing.
How to use concession in Writing Task 2.
How to write complex sentences for IELTS.
Coherence and Cohesion for IELTS Task 2.
‘Not only but also’ and inversion
How to use ‘the former, the latter’
How to correct your grammar mistakes in IELTS
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