This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.
Search BBC
BBC World Service
BBC BBC News BBC Sport BBC Weather BBC World Service Worldservice languages
spacer gif
You are in: Home > Grammar, Vocabulary & Pronunciation > Ask about English
Learning English
spacer gif
learn it! title
 'effect' 'affect' and 'efficient' 'effective'
engine

Warda Jamal from Pakistan asks:

I always get confused in the usage of effect and affect. Please give examples of their use in sentences.

Kisy Kesh from Guadaloupe writes:

I’m 16 and I’ve been studying English for a few years now. I’d like to know the difference between efficient and effective and the way to use them.

 

Roger replies:more questions

affect – effect

Affect and effect are often confused, Warda, 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, Kisy. If somebody or something is efficient, then he, she or it works in a well-organised 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 organisation.'

  • '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 litre 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.'

BBC copyright
 
Learning English | News English | Business English | Watch and Listen
 
Grammar and Vocabulary | Communicate | Quizzes | For teachers
 
Downloads | FAQ | Contact us