• Easily confused words in English: Why the Butterfly Effect is not the Butterfly Affect

    You have probably heard of the book and movie The Butterfly Effect, but do you know why it is not called The Butterfly Affect? These words sound the same, and are often confused by people learning English, and even by plenty of people who are native English speakers.

    The word effect is generally used as a noun in English. It refers to

    • a result brought about by a cause
    • an impression of something
    • a phenomenon, wither real or illusory
    • meaning or sense

    Here are some examples of its usage:

    The effect of the flooding on the house was clearly visible.
    The soothing music had a powerful effect on the child and lulled him to sleep.
    She put flowers on the table to create a homely effect.
    The pill had an immediate effect on my headache.

    Occasionally, effect is used as a verb. In this case it is used to evoke a change that has been brought about.

    Here is an example:

    Our school director changed the rules in order to effect a change on how we behaved ourselves.


    Affect on the other hand, is normally used as a verb in English. It means to:

    • change someone’s state emotionally or psychologically
    • influence someone or something
    • assume a behavior
    • attack or infect

    Here are some examples of how it is used.

    Polio can affect sufferers’ legs and reduce their ability to walk.
    He can really affect an English accent although he is not French.
    The current economic crisis affects all our salaries.
    The high rainfall levels will affect tourism this year.

    Learning the difference between affect and effect through music

    Now, we will listen to two songs one of which uses effect and the other affect. See if you can figure out which one.

That’s how much I love you
That’s how much I need you
And I can’t stand you
Must everything you do make me wanna smile
Can I not like you for awhile? (No….)

But you won’t let me
You upset me girl
And then you kiss my lips
All of a sudden I forget (that I was upset)
Can’t remember what you did

But I hate it…
You know exactly what to do
So that I can’t stay mad at you
For too long that’s wrong

But I hate it…
You know exactly how to touch
So that I don’t want to fuss.. and fight no more
Said I despise that I adore you

And I hate how much I love you boy (yeah…)
I can’t stand how much I need you (I need you…)
And I hate how much I love you boy (oh whoa..)
But I just can’t let you go
And I hate that I love you so (oh..)

You completely know the power that you have
The only one makes me laugh

Said it’s not fair
How you take advantage of the fact
That I… love you beyond the reason why
And it just ain’t right

And I hate how much I love you girl
I can’t stand how much I need you (yeah..)
And I hate how much I love you girl
But I just can’t let you go
But I hate that I love you so

One of these days maybe your magic won’t ______me
And your kiss won’t make me weak
But no one in this world knows me the way you know me
So you’ll probably always have a spell on me…
    Now, here is the second one:

    Every morning the last couple of weeks
    In between shaving and brushing my teeth
    I’d lean on the sink and practice my lines
    By now you would think they’d be memorized

    But leave it to me to come all this way
    Get down on one knee and forget what to say
    I’m at a loss should have known this is how it would be
    ‘Cause you have that _____ on me

    I must admit I still don’t understand
    Why I lose my head holding your hand
    There’s no explanation no simple excuse
    For this intoxication I feel around you

    And now truth be known since I’ve met you girl
    I’ve been walkin’ around in my own little world
    One look in my eyes and darlin’ any fool could see
    That you have that _____ on me

    You’ve had your eyes on a two carat ring
    I finally went out and I bought it
    Right now it’s at home sittin’ on my TV
    Would you believe I forgot it

    But you can’t blame me ’cause it’s plain to see
    That you have that ______ on me
    Yeah you have that _____ on me
    Girl you have that ______ on me


    Now, let’s see how what you’ve learned. Here are some final exercises

    That car accident has had a profound _______ on his confidence while driving.
    Did you notice the ______ of the white curtains against the orange walls?
    Will the rise in prices ______ your holiday plans this year?
    I know she spent a year in Australia but that accent seems really _______
    Do you think Paul will _________ a change in the company?

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