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To give effect to something or to carry/bring/put something into effect is to make it begin doing what it was intended to do.

Are these verb phrases ('to give effect...', to + verb + into + effect) containing 'effect' prolix and tortuous? Why not simply use 'to effect'? They transpire to suggest that there may be differences?

I originally asked the above. User FumbleFingers kindly replied:

You give effect to X when X is something that already "exists", but hasn't YET been "activated" so it will actually do whatever it's intended to do (such as a plan that hasn't been put into practice yet). Often when you effect X, you cause X (which didn't previously "exist") to come into being. The idea that all "longer" phrasings are prolix, tortuous or otherwise "undesirable" is a serious misconception.

I accept this, but am still confused about the other case where X already exists. User StoneyB answered:

To give effect to something or put it into effect is to cause that something to become capable of producing effects.

But how does this differ from effect? To use StoneyB's example, If I effect a change in my lifestyle, then this change itself can 'cause [that something] to become capable of producing [further] effects'?

  • As an aside, I think you mean vexing, not torturous. :^) (Technically, the latter could be used, but I think the former would be a better word.) – J.R. Nov 11 '14 at 8:59
  • @J.R. Thank you! I'll remember this for the future. – Greek - Area 51 Proposal Nov 11 '14 at 9:21
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    "To give effect to something" is closer to "to affect" than "to effect". "To effect X" means "to make X happen", just more formal. – Damkerng T. Nov 11 '14 at 10:54
  • If you don't know whether to write "affect" or "effect", you could use the word "impact" instead. – Chirag Feb 5 '15 at 20:13
  • @Chirag - That works sometimes, but not nearly always. – Adam Feb 5 '15 at 20:27
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I basically agree with SoltBegins, but let me state it a different way.

To "give effect to" something is to make it work, to make it carry out its desired intent.

To "effect" something (as a verb) is to bring it into existence or make it happen.

So if you said, "Mr Smith effected an agreement between the parties", that would mean that Smith managed to convince the parties to come to some compromise. Like, he convinced them that they should each pay half the cost. If you said, "Mr Smith gave effect to the agreement between the parties", that would mean that he did something to make the agreement actually happen, like he collected the money from each of them.

Addendum

To try to answer your question:

By "make it happen" here I mean something along the lines of "bring it into existence". Maybe it would have been more clear if I'd just left it at "bring it into existence".

"Give effect to" specifically means to cause something that previously existed only as an idea or on paper to actually happen. We routinely talk about "giving effect to a contract" or "giving effect to the new law".

To "effect" simply means to cause, or cause to exist. Sometimes, often, causing something to exist and making it happen are the same thing. When we say "Smith effected X" we often mean that he both caused it to exist and caused it to produce the desired outcome. If, for example, you say "I effected an update to the document", making the update exist and making it actually change the document are probably a single event, you can't separate them out. So in a given case,
whether "to effect X" means to create a concept that is not yet actually happening in the real world,
or if it means both to create the concept and to really make it happen, depends on the context.
In the case of an agreement, if all the parties are truly willing it might be that once the agreement is made, they all go off and do whatever, and no one thinks of a separate step of giving effect to the agreement. It just depends on context.

  • Thanks, but I remain confused. Why can't give effect to be used in your example with effect, when Smith managed to convince the parties to come to some compromise? Also, you wrote: to give effect to sth ... make it work & **To "effect" something ** ... make it happen. But make it work equates to make it happen? – Greek - Area 51 Proposal Nov 15 '14 at 5:12
  • Will you please to respond in your answer, and not as a comment? – Greek - Area 51 Proposal Nov 15 '14 at 5:13
  • +1 I edited your post minorly and apologise for any offense. Please feel free to refine or revert. – Greek - Area 51 Proposal May 14 '15 at 1:25
  • @LawArea51Proposal-Commit Oops, typos. Sure, edit is fine. – Jay May 14 '15 at 13:09
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Oh boy. So first off, let me just run down the difference between 'affect' and 'effect' to avoid confusion.

'Affect' is to change something.

The light affected the plants' growth.

'Effect', when used as a verb, is to make something happen.

The council decided to effect their plans, starting tomorrow.

Now, 'give effect' in the context you used it means something like 'activate' or 'enable'; your original definition used it in a legal context to activate a piece of law.

The court refused to give effect to that part of the document.

From reading the definition, it seems extremely similar to 'effect', in that they both start something; but 'give effect' specifically requires the object exist, and already be inactive, whereas in my above example, the plans are being acted upon; that is, things are being transformed from 'plan' to 'stuff actually being carried out'.

It's kind of a fiddly difference, really.

  • I once wrote in a software manual, "To effect a change, click Update on the main menu and ..." etc. Meaning, if you want to make a change, here's how to do it. Then someone else came along and edited that to, "To affect a change, click Update on the main menu and ...", which I guess would mean that the change must already exist, and if you want to change the change, you go to this screen to do it. Which must have left users with the question, How do I create the change to begin with? I hate editors sometimes. – Jay Nov 11 '14 at 15:14
  • Sounds like your editor slipped up... – SoItBegins Nov 11 '14 at 20:47
  • Thank you. Would you please clarifyand enlarge on what you mean by extant and inactive beforehand? Also, I'm comfortable with 'affect' vs 'effect' so no need to write about this too much in your post (but please do if it relates). – Greek - Area 51 Proposal Nov 15 '14 at 5:09
  • Will you please to respond in your answer, and not as a comment? – Greek - Area 51 Proposal Nov 15 '14 at 5:10
  • 'Extant' changed to 'exist', as 'is extant' is a way of saying something exists. – SoItBegins Nov 25 '14 at 23:07
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"Effect" is used with verbs or actions, and "give effect" is used with nouns.

Conducting a few searches looking for an example sentence for "give effect," I noticed it's often used in the context of law. I can't think of a common example where it's not used that way.

He effected his escape with knotted bedsheets

The court refused to give effect to that part of the document

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