Monday, July 2, 2007

Confusing Words


Affect and effect are often confused, even by native speakers of English. The most important thing to remember is that affect is used as a verb and effect is normally used as a noun. When they are used in this way, they are similar in meaning, signifying ‘influence’, ‘impact’ or ‘change’. Compare the following:
  • 'The really hot weather affected everybody’s ability to work.'
  • 'I know my neighbours play loud music late at night, but that doesn’t affect me.I can sleep through anything.'
  • 'The number of tourists travelling to Britain this year has not been affected by the strength of the pound.'
  • 'The tablets which he took every four hours had no noticeable effect on his headache.'
  • 'My words of comfort had little effect. She just went on crying and wouldn’t stop.'

    Note: we talk about someone or something having an effect on something or someone. If we use effect as a verb, it means to ‘carry out’ or to ‘cause something to happen’, but it is used only in very formal English. Consider the following:

    'Repairs could not be effected because the machines were very old.'

Efficient – Effective

These two qualitative adjectives are often confused. If somebody or something is efficient, then he, she or it works in a well-organized way, without wasting time or energy. Consider the following examples:

  • 'She was efficient in everything she did and was frequently commended for exemplary service to the organization.'
  • 'He hasn’t made very efficient use of his time in revising for these exams: he has made no notes and his concentration spans appear to last for no longer than ten minutes.'
  • 'This engine is really efficient. It can run for 30 km on only 1 liter of fuel.'

    If something is effective, it works well and produces the results that were intended. Consider the following examples:

  • 'These tablets really are effective. My headache’s much better now.'
  • 'The only effective way to avoid hay fever at this time of the year, if you are a sufferer, is to stay indoors.'

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