Have you ever heard the phrase to that effect or to the effect of? These are idioms we use often in English. If you’re not sure what they mean or how to use them, keep reading this blog!
What Is an Idiom?
First, it’s helpful to understand what an idiom is. It’s a phrase that has an accepted meaning attached to it. Usually, if taken literally, the words wouldn’t make sense in their context or have a logical meaning.
For example, the phrase up in the air means that something’s undecided or likely to change:
Our plans are up in the air for now.
If you didn’t know the meaning of the idiom up in the air, you might picture something literally floating in the air – which wouldn’t make sense.
Something to the effect of…
The phrase something to the effect of means that you communicated something that has roughly the same meaning as something else but you used different words. If this sounds a bit vague, a few examples might help:
She said we needed to leave… or something to that effect.
“Did they say yes?” “Well, words to that effect, yes.”
Stunned, I muttered something to the effect of “Don’t worry about it.”
In each of these examples, a phrase or idea is expressed secondhand or in generalized terms. The words used may not be exactly the same as the original ones, but a similar meaning is conveyed.
When to Use Something to the effect of…
This popular idiom has a pretty specific use. If you want to pass along a message or communicate something that has already been written or spoken but you don’t want to use the exact words, you can summarize the message and use the something to that effect idiom to indicate that your version is a rough translation of the original.
This expression can come in handy if the original wording was too lengthy or if you don’t remember the exact words. You can also use it to generalize something. For example:
When I share this story, the response is always “Wow!” or something to that effect.
Here, the speaker isn’t referring to a specific response, but they use something to that effect to generalize how people commonly react to their story.
Is It to the effect or to the affect?
In English, effect and affect often get mixed up, and this confusion extends to the to the effect idiom! The words effect and affect sound the same and have similar meanings, so it’s easy to get them confused.
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It can help to remember that, usually, effect is a noun and affect is a verb. An effect is the impact or result of something:
The lighting has a lovely effect on the room.
To affect something means to have an impact or influence on it:
The lighting affects the room in a lovely way.
In our idiom, effect is correct. Essentially, when you say something is to the effect of something else, you’re saying that it has the same end result, or effect, as something else. You’re just saying it with different words.
Summary: Something to the effect of…
We hope you have a better idea of what something to the effect of means and how to use it. Using this phrase will get easier with practice, so we hope you try it out!
If you use it – or any other English idioms – in your writing, we’d love to read it. Our expert editors can make sure you use idioms correctly, as well as checking your work for grammar, word choice, spelling, and everything in between. Try it out for free today!
Frequently Asked Questions
What does it mean to say to the effect?
Saying that something is to the effect of something else means that your statement has roughly the same meaning but you are conveyed it using different words.
Is it something to that effect or something to that affect?
Because effect is usually a noun and affect is usually a verb, something to that effect is correct.