Saturday, 8 February 2014

Affect and Effect

This is supposed to be a blog about my life in New Zealand as if life here is inherently different from life in Scotland.  Now that I have lived here for six months every year since 2005 it's become apparent to me that life is life wherever you are.  This blog is really just my notebook on the half of of my life which happens here in New Zealand.  It's not peculiarly Kiwi it's just life.

Did you know (of course you didn't, why would you?) that affect is one of the most searched-for words in Oxford Dictionaries Online.  That is probably because a lot of people are confused about the difference between affect and effect, two words which have almost the same spelling, but very different meanings.

I seem to have lived for 69 year without being confused but recently I have had to stop and think which is which.
 
The key thing to remember is that affect is typically used as a verb:
  • His time at school had affected his outlook on life.
On the other hand, effect is most commonly used as a noun:
  • What were the effects of your schooling on your outlook on life.
Hopefully my natural instinct as to which is which will now return.  I hope that I haven't suddenly confused you.

27 comments:

  1. They are probably the words I confuse most when writing. I do know the difference but sometimes my fingers just type the wrong one!

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    1. That's it Mark. I, too, know the difference academically. It's just that recently I've had to stop and think. I'm sure my age has nothing at all to do with it.......hmmm.

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  2. There is a difference?
    This has come as a bit of a shock.

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    1. Come, come, Adrian. I don't believe you.

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    2. Frances, I'm not completely daft. One starts with an 'e' and the other with an 'a'.
      The real poser for me is practise and practice. I must confess I just alternate them for variety.

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    3. PS. or use another word like rehearsal.

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    4. So you go and visit the doctor at his rehearsal, do you? Mmmm.

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    5. I can always count on you two (Adrian and Frances) for a good chuckle.

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    6. Frances, you haven't met my GP. A visit always seems like a practise or rehearsal, my solicitor is much the same.

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    7. Adrian, that should be practice with a C! Sigh....

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  3. I was never confused by this but have very often noticed the words used wrongly (by native speakers). I also often see "then" and "than" confused on other people's blogs (again, native speakers), as well as "its" and "it's". None of these have ever been unclear or confusing to me, so I don't really see why they seem so problematic to others.
    Similarly, in German, the addressing "Sie" (as in "Was machen Sie da?" = "What are you doing?") is so often confused (by native speakers) with the plural "sie" (spelled with a small s, not a capital one; as in "Was machen sie [die vielen Leute] da?" = "What are they [all these people] doing?"), and I can't understand why this should ever be unclear if one knows the context.
    Sorry about making such a complicated comment, Graham. You know sometimes it takes little to trigger me off.
    And yes, life is just life really, no matter where you are. Differences are mostly outwards.

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    1. My experience is similar to Meike's, i.e. having English as 2nd language and yet often noticing mistakes made by native writers. But I guess some people just find it easier than others to pick up spelling (or grammar). Sometimes learning a foreign language can even be an advantage because you get taught the "rules" (and exceptions) in a different way than in your native language. I suspect that in English I also look up more words, while in Swedish I settle for a vague sense of recognition. (Sometimes when I come across a strange word in English, and look it up in an English-Swedish dictionary, I find that I still don't know what it is!)

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    2. It's very interesting Meike and Monica (potential start for an alliteration there) that as two non-native English speakers your English is invariably impeccable. I would imagine that your native language is as well. Sometimes a spelling problem or use of an incorrectly used word (I'm sure that I must have occasionally put a stray apostrophe into 'its') is simply carelessness. Some people are dyslexic (and very mild dyslexia is sometimes not even recognised by the person who has it). I would regard myself as reasonably adept in the use of the English language having learned grammar from first principles at school and I was once an excellent speller but some words just confusticate me. For the first six decades of my life, for example, I always wanted to spell 'across' 'accross'.

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    3. My most used online dictionary did not know the word 'confusticate'. Neither did I, but now I do. (For how long I will remember it, is another matter.) One word that often makes me hesitate in English when I need to spell it is 'appreciate'. For some reason I tend to want to put 'ea' in the middle instead of just e.

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  4. One of my betes noire is "of" instead of "have"; ie "I could of worn my pyjamas".

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    1. Oh Frances that is symptomatic of that which is going to happen more and more as children use text speak and English 'as she is spoke' rather than correct English. After all some of the worst spellers I know are teachers.

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  5. I guess Ill just have to remember that affect is "act" I think you could make an entire daily blog of examples of words used incorrectly.

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    1. I'm sure that you are correct Red. Perhaps someone does. My brother CJ has written a blog on obscure words.

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  6. It's funny how certain things just won't stick, isn't it. I'm OK with affect and effect, but ask me to spell neice (or is it niece) and I'm stumped. (Except that the spell checker knows it is "niece") !

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    1. Jenny the spillchucker has so much for which to answer. The number of times I look back over a sentence (on my iPad or iPhone not my Mac) and find a 'correction' that the spillchucker has made is greater than I would wish. The number of times I just don't notice is downright irritating.

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    2. Jenny I always remember with this little rhyme I was taught at school..."i" before "e" except after "c"
      Therefore "niece" and "receive."
      Hope this helps in future.

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  7. I actually teach English for a living. (I say "actually" because my thick Southern (United States) accent often causes those who speak to me in passing to assume that since I sound like Jim Nabors (if you remember The Andy Griffith Show, he was the actor who portrayed Gomer Pyle, who was known for such exclamations as "Goooooo-leeee!" and "Shazam, Shazam!") then I have roughly the same facility with English grammar and vocabulary. Ahem, rambling.

    Anyway, you are right, people constantly mix up those two words. Adding to the confusion, I believe (and this is just off the top of my head, so people who know better can feel free to correct me) "effect" can ALSO be a verb (as in: "We will effect change." - change will be put into effect) and "affect" can ALSO be a noun (as in: "He had a grim affect." - his face looked angry). At the end of the day, I think English speakers the world round will probably admit... maybe it would have been better if one of the Romance languages had conquered the world. Or perhaps Mandarin; at least the characters have some artistic value.

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    1. Nathaniel I did say 'typically' and 'most commonly' because, as you say each can be used as either although affect is chiefly used as a verb and effect more commonly used as both. Unfortunately the shows that you mentioned are not ones of which I have ever heard.

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  8. I was very affected by the effects of your post. Love you! xoxox

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    1. Carol you are just sooo funny.

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  9. Having a very strict English teacher at a private school, I don't think I will ever make the mistake of confusing "affect" and "effect."
    What I do find happening with me as I get older is I tend to forget the correct spelling of everyday words.
    When I write them down, they look wrong, and I question myself, then search online only to discover that it's right.....sometimes the only difference being the US spelling vs.the English spelling.
    I'm always being told "You're too British" but The English language was invented by the British and I love spelling my words correctly....smile.
    I do believe it's all the texting that's problematic these days for the correct use of the English language.

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    1. Virginia I, too, should have no problems with "affect" and "effect" academically nor with spelling. Why now after all those decades of no problems am I developing them? It's a worry!

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