Affect, Effect


Affect is usually a verb. It means to have some kind of effect or impact on someone. To affect people is to influence them, often on an emotional level.


The lousy weather affected Cindy’s mood.

We were greatly affected by the sadness in her voice.

In some rare instances, affect can be a noun. It is a technical term in psychology, and more generally it refers to the outward expression of emotion (especially on one’s face). However, you might be better off using the word affectation if you mean to describe an expression of feeling that is not genuinely felt.


Most of the time effect is a noun. It refers to the result or outcome of some kind of action.


The rise in interest rates had a negative effect on the housing market.

One effect of the new law has been an increase in jaywalking.

Occasionally effect can be used to as a verb, to mean make, causeachieve, or create. It is often used in the expression “to effect change,” a rather hackneyed phrase.


If you want to effect change, join the police force!


The main thing to remember is that affect is a verb meaning to influence or have an impact, and effect is a noun that refers to the result of an action. In other words, whenever you affect people you have an effect on them. 

There are, however, some exceptions to these rules. Sometimes effect can be used as a verb to mean make or cause. In that case it should have a direct object (e.g., He effected a change of policy). Conversely, affect can be used as a noun to refer to a feeling or emotion expressed outwardly.

Migrate, Emigrate, Immigrate


The verb migrate comes from Latin (migrare) and means to move from one place to another. It is often used to refer to the seasonal migration of animals, but it can also be used more loosely to mean any act of resettlement or relocation.


The Canada geese are migrating south.

Many unemployed farm works have been migrating to the big city.

Some students migrated to the back of the class.


To emigrate means to leave one country in order to settle in another. The comes from Latin ex, which means out of (as in exit).


My grandparents emigrated from Austria in the 1930s.


To immigrate means to enter into another country with the goal of settling permanently. The “im” prefix comes from Latin in, which, not surprisingly, means in or into.


We immigrated to India three years ago.


All three words are usually used as verbs, but they also have other forms. For instance, we can speak of migratory birds (adjective), migration (noun), and immigrant (noun).

The most important thing to remember is that emigrate means to move out of a country, whereas immigrate means to move into a country. Usually the one implies the other, and usually the goal is some type of permanent resettlement and citizenship.

Immanent, Imminent, Eminent


The word immanent means inherent, in-dwelling, within. It comes from Latin in manere (to remain). It is often used in theology to refer to the way God dwells within things.


The poet Gerald Manley Hopkins described God’s immanence in all living things.


Imminent is an adjective that means that something is about to happen. It also comes from Latin–in this case in minere (to project, overhang, impend). Think of a cliff that looms over you. Because of this origin the word is often associated with danger.


A crisis is imminent.


To be eminent is to be famous and respected. Interesting, it has a similar origin as imminent. It is a combination of ex (out of) and minere (to project, overhang). Literally, then, eminent means to stick out, to be prominent.


If you want to be eminent (respected), it may help you to remember that immanent refers to things that are inherent and innate, whereas imminent refers to things that are about to happen.


The eminent theologian Ernest Wainscotting believed in God’s immanence, but he did not think the end of the world was imminent.


Easily Confused Words


Watch out for the following words. They are easily confused, and a spell check will help you with these.


They’re is a contraction of they are. Their is a possessive pronoun:

They’re writing their obituaries.


There refers to a place (compare where), whereas their is a pronoun that shows possession:

Their tombstones are over there.


Lose is a verb. Loose is typically an adverb:

If your wedding ring is loose, you might lose it.

However, sometimes loose can be a verb, in which case it means to set free, let go:

Jimmy loosed a shot at the keeper.

The ropes were loosed and the ship left the harbour.


When used as a verb, bare means to reveal and bear means to carry:

If you bare your bum, you will bear responsibility for the consequences.


Illusive (think illusion) means that something is deceptive, a mirage. Elusive means that something can’t be captured and escapes your grasp:

The ghost seemed elusive (hard to catch), but was really illusive (an illusion, not real).


These two have very similar meanings, but adverse (harmful, antagonistic) is not usually applied to people, whereas averse (loath, unwilling, opposed) tends to describe people’s feelings and is usually followed by to:

We faced adverse conditions on the high seas.

I guess I’m not averse to attending your Christmas concert.


The word tortuous means winding, full of twists and turns, and should be distinguished from torturous, though both can cause pain and suffering:

Reading your essay was a torturous experience, as I couldn’t follow the tortuous path of your argument.


Ascetic people abstain from the pleasures of the world. They practice self-discipline and lead an austere life. Aesthetics has to do with the study and appreciation of beauty:

His decadent aesthetics did not match my minimalist, ascetic lifestyle.


To compliment is to praise someoneTo complement means to add something in order to improve:

“Your scarf complements your outfit.”

“Thanks for the compliment!”


Sometimes it can be difficult to keep words separate. Take disinterested. It’s primary meaning is unbiased or objective. Being disinterested therefore does not mean being uninterested. However, a quarter of all uses of disinterested do mean uninterested, which of course infuriates the purists. The point is that language change is driven by confusion and laziness, so, if you make a mistake, take heart: you may be making history.