Word Usage: Principal and Principle


Dear Grammarly Community,


I'm not sure if many of you get tripped up by principal and principle, but I always do. Mostly because they're pronounced the same, obviously.


I looked it up on the dictionary:


Principal: first or highest in rank, importance, value, etc.; chief; foremost.

Principle: an accepted or professed rule of action or conduct


So am I right to say that for all sentences that is position-related, I'd use principal, and all others like a person's values etc. I'd use principle? 

Thanks in advance!




words grammar asked Aug 20 '13 at 17:44 Taylor Ryan New member

1 answer


Let me confuse you further, Taylor. You can have a principal principle!


Principle is always a noun. Yes, principles are along the same lines as values. They are exactly what the dictionary tells you - rules of action or conduct. They are things that you do.

The word principal is very commonly used as the job title for the person in charge of the school. He is the chief, the highest ranking employee, he's the top banana. In this sense, the word is a noun. When not used as a title for a person, the word is an adjective using the definition you noted.


So, if you have a set if principles (rules that you follow), the first and most important one is the principal principle.


One way to remember the difference is that the one with the "a" (first letter of the alphabet) means first or highest.

link comment answered Aug 20 '13 at 19:36 Patty T Grammarly Fellow

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