The Homophones Affect and Effect, and Accept and Except
1. Affect and effect may well be the two hardest of all homophones to sort out, but there are some things that can help:
Most of the time effect is a noun, and affect is, a verb:
Effect means “a result, a change.”
Affect means “to influence, to change.”
The punishment had no effectnoun on his behavior.
The punishment did not affectverb his behavior.
The noun effect and the verb affect are a team: If something affects something else, it has an effect on it.
Affect contains the prefix ad-: ad + f + fect, thus the <a>.
Effect contains the prefix ex-: ex + f + fect, thus the <e>.
The noun effect often occurs in the phrase “the effect.” Remember that phrase, and remember that in it there are two <e>'s together: the one at the end of the and the one at the beginning of effect The phrase “the effect” can help you remember that the noun effect starts with an <e>.
2. Except and accept, though they differ more in sound, can cause about as much trouble for spellers as do effect and affect. They, too, contain the prefixes ex- and ad-: except = ex + cept and accept = ad+ c + cept.
But here knowing the prefixes is of more help than it is with effect and affect The base cept means “take.” The prefix ex- means “out,” and ad- means “to, towards.” When you except something, or make an exception of it, you take it out or leave it out. When you accept something, you take it to you or toward you.
So remembering the prefixes ex- and ad- can be very useful for keeping both the meanings and the spellings straight.
3. Analyze the words in bold face into prefixes, bases, and suffixes:
Sentence and Word
Analysis of Word
Heights don't affect her at all.
ad+ f + fect
But he is greatly affected by them.
ad+ f + fect + ed
The effect of the medicine was quick.
ex+ f + fect
The medicine was effective.
ex+ f + fect + ive
Everyone left except Bob.
ex + cept
Bob was the exception.
ex + cept + ion
She decided to accept the job.
ad+ c + cept
She accepted it gladly.
ad+ c + cept + ed
4. Cross out the incorrect words:
a. The (effect / affect) of his decision was surprising.
b. She would not (except / accept) his apology.
c. His sore throat might (effect / affect) his singing.
d. Will you (except / accept) this gift?
e. Everyone (except / accept) you has signed already.
f. We don't know which was cause and which was (effect / affect).
g. He (excepted / accepted) her from the punishment.
h. Einstein's (effect / affect) on science was very great.
Item 1. This discussion of effect and affect is a deliberate simplification. For it is unfortunately true that effect can also function as a verb: “We could not effect a happy compromise.” As a verb, effect means “to bring about, to accomplish.” And, alas, affect can also function as a noun: In psychology an affect is a feeling or emotion. It would seem needlessly cruel to introduce this complication to the youngsters at this point. And doing so is probably fairly safe: As a verb effect is pretty much restricted to quite formal usage, and as a noun affect is pretty much restricted to the technical language of psychology. By the time the youngsters develop into those levels of formality and technicality, they should have had enough time to make habitual the basic distinction being made here between effect as noun and affect as verb.