The consequences of the economic downturn will certainly ......... people's lives in every society.

a. affect
b. impact
c. influence

Based on the provided hyperlinks above, the meanings go as follows:


to have an influence on someone or something, or to cause a change in someone or something.


a powerful effect that something, especially something new, has on a situation or person.


to affect or change how someone or something develops, behaves, or thinks.

As you probably noticed, the defined bold parts show how many overlaps exist between these options. These similarities make a non-native one quite confused determining which word fits better in a particular situation.

As far as I'm concerned, all the three options above work properly in my example with some slight nuances:

"Affect" almost always is used when some effects cause a change take place.
"Impact" is used when some strong effects happen as a result.
"Influence" is used when some effects cause some changes in behavior or actions.

I am wondering whether you approve my conclusion on them.

Added: This link has discussed only the nuance between "impact" and "influence".
This one and this one have discussed only "influence" and "affect".

None of the mentioned threads have specifically went through a particular example! Also, none of them have compared all three choices under the same topic. Aside from that, whereas they have not brought up the potential effects of each word in a single example, I think they are not of great help to learners. That was why I decided to make a distinct question and raise them all in one single question.

PS. having this thread posted on the forum, I am going to recognize each word's direct effect on my provided example. It would be of a great help if someone could do me a favor and let me know how using each option can alter the meaning of this specific whole case.

  • Did you mean 'people's lives'? Nov 17, 2021 at 17:45
  • Definitely @Michael Harvey. I fixed the typo. Thank you for pointing that out.
    – A-friend
    Nov 17, 2021 at 18:02
  • Perhaps I'm misusing it, but I routinely use "impact" in situations in which the effects are not "severe." But yes, your distinctions are good. (Especially about "influence": A renovation does not "influence" a house.) Nov 17, 2021 at 19:12
  • Any X can be said to impact, influence or affect someone's life or situation.
    – Lambie
    Nov 17, 2021 at 23:36
  • That's not surprising at all @Lambie. I am well aware about it. However, the question is that how each word can alter the meaning of a specific example like mine.
    – A-friend
    Nov 17, 2021 at 23:39

1 Answer 1


The consequences of the economic downturn will certainly affect people's lives in every society.

This version has the least nuance. It just means what it means: the consequences will have some impact on people's lives. It's mildly understated.

The consequences of the economic downturn will certainly impact people's lives in every society.

This version suggests a strong, sudden or negative impact. It's also controversial in some academic circles to use "impact" as a verb. Here, "have an impact" is preferred, but then that means the same as "affect". To capture the nuances of the verb "to impact" and avoid condescending looks and snide comments about usage, consider "have a strong/sudden/negative/... impact".

The consequences of the economic downturn will certainly influence people's lives in every society.

This version means it will have some impact on people, perhaps a very mild one, and more likely a positive one that will only be noticed looking back after a long time. If the effect is measurable, it won't be immediately obvious.

Aside from your main question, semantically, it's the economic downturn itself that will affect people, not the consequences. The effect on people is the consequence of an economic downturn.

  • Hence, I think "affect" and "impact" have the same meanings here @gotube. Right?
    – A-friend
    Nov 18, 2021 at 10:37
  • @A-friend No. Why would you think that? I defined them differently here in my answer. Do not confuse the verb "to impact" with "to have an impact". These do not mean the same thing
    – gotube
    Nov 19, 2021 at 5:20
  • Then could you possibly tell me a little about the difference between "impact" and "have an impact" @gotube? They used to mean the same to me!
    – A-friend
    Nov 19, 2021 at 18:41
  • 1
    @A-friend As I said in my answer, "to have an impact" roughly means just "affect"; "to impact" means "to have a strong, sudden or negative impact".
    – gotube
    Nov 20, 2021 at 2:10

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