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Affect vs Influence vs Touch vs Impress vs Strike vs Sway

Affect, influence, touch, impress, strike and sway are more or less closely synonymous when they mean to produce or to have an effect upon a person or upon a thing capable of a reaction.

Affect always presupposes a stimulus powerful enough to evoke a response or elicit a reaction.

  • our eardrums are affected by ten octaves, at most, out of the endless range of sounds
  • even changes of season affect the townsman very little

Often, in addition, affect implies a definite alteration or modification.

  • I am afraid . . . that this adventure has rather affected your admiration of her fine eyes

When the object of the verb is a person, an intellectual or emotional effect is usually implied.

  • such poetry affects one as trite and meaningless
  • the sight affected her to tears

Influence always presupposes an agent that moves a person or thing in some way or to some degree from a course, or effects changes in nature, character, or behavior.

  • the judge was never influenced in his decisions by his sympathies or prejudices
  • the body influences the mind and the mind the body
  • the Society of Friends had been influenced by Quietism, and adversely affected by the paralyzing rationalism of the reigns of the first two Georges

Sometimes the implication of inducing, or inciting, or persuading, or even bribing is strong.

  • monomaniacs, having first persuaded themselves, contrive to influence their neighbors

Touch frequently equals affect, but it often carries a more vivid suggestion of close contact or of the force of an impact, and therefore variously connotes stirring, arousing, or harming.

  • he was for the first time powerfully touched by the presence of a woman
  • a small object whose exquisite workmanship has touched me with its intimate charm
    —7. S. Untermeyer

Touch, most often, but impress and strike always, imply a mental or emotional effect.

Impress usually stresses the depth and the lastingness of the effect, for something that impresses is commonly what is remembered or noticed or is worth remembering or noticing.

  • only one of the speeches that evening impressed him
  • the men he wanted to impress were only amused

Strike is often felt to be more colloquial than impress and less rich in its suggestions.

  • a hat that struck her fancy

However strike connotes suddenness or sharpness of response rather than depth of impression; it may even carry a hint of a swift passing.

  • the remark struck him as extremely acute
  • they strike mine eyes, but not my heart
    Ben Jonson

Sway, which basically means to influence, differs from the latter word in implying both the pressure or control of some force that is either not resisted or is in itself irresistible, and resulting change or fluctuation in character, opinions, or decisions of the person concerned.

  • the notion . . . of capricious deities, swayed by human passions and desires, was incompatible with the idea of fixed law
  • other conditions than those of classroom have swayed him for good or evil
  • he is swayed by fashion, by suggestion, by transient moods