Principal vs. Principle | Difference & Examples

Principle and principal are pronounced the same but have different meanings.

  • Principal can be used as a noun to refer to a person in authority, the perpetrator of a crime, or the capital sum of a loan. It can also be used as an adjective to mean “most important” or “primary.”
  • Principle is a noun used to refer to a scientific, moral, or legal rule or standard.
Examples: “Principal” in a sentence Examples: “Principle” in a sentence
The principal of the school is very strict when it comes to attendance. Chris refused to pay the extra shipping costs on principle.
The principal finding of the study is questionable. Isaac Newton uncovered the principles of gravity and motion.

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Payed vs. Paid | Difference & Example Sentences

Payed and paid are pronounced similarly but have different meanings.

  • Payed is a rare word that’s only used in nautical/maritime contexts. It can be used to refer to the act of coating parts of a boat with waterproof material or to the act of letting out a rope or chain by slackening it.
  • Paid is the much more common word, used as the past tense of the verb “pay” in all other senses.
Examples: “Payed” in a sentence Examples: “Paid” in a sentence
The sailors payed the front of the boat with tar to seal the gaps. We paid more for the meal than we had expected.
Liam untied the knot and payed out the rope to Bill. Sophia gets paid at the beginning of each month.
Note
People sometimes mistakenly write payed because it seems like the more logical past tense spelling of “pay,” but paid is the correct choice in the vast majority of cases.

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Loose vs. Lose | Difference & Example Sentences

Loose and lose are pronounced differently and typically have different grammatical roles.

  • Loose (double “o”; pronounced [loo-s]) is an adjective or adverb meaning “not secure” or “not tight.” It can also be used as a verb to mean “release.”
  • Lose (one “o”; pronounced [loo-z]) is a verb that can be used to mean “misplace” or “suffer a loss.”
Examples: “Loose” in a sentence Examples: “Lose” in a sentence
I need to fix the door because the handle is loose. If we lose again, our team will be out of the league.
Myles likes his new jeans, even though they are a little loose. Make sure you don’t lose your house keys.

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Former vs. Latter | Difference & Example Sentences

Former and latter are both used (with “the”) to refer to previously mentioned items in a list of two or more things. This is done to save space and reduce repetition.

  • Former can be used to refer back to the first person or thing in a list. It can also be used to mean “previous” or to refer to a past state.
  • Latter can be used to refer back to the last person or thing in a list. It can also be used to refer to a subsequent time or period.
Examples: “Former” in a sentence Examples: “Latter” in a sentence
I was offered soup or salad, and I chose the former. Norway and Italy are both beautiful, but the latter is much warmer.
The former president is running for election again. He faced many difficulties in the latter half of his life.
Note
Some style guides argue that former and latter should only be used in lists containing two items, and this is certainly the most common way of using the words. However, it’s quite possible to use the words with longer lists, too.

If you do want to avoid this, you can use “first” and “last” instead. And you’ll always have to use a different word to refer to one of the middle items in a list (e.g., “the third”).

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Compliment vs. Complement | Difference & Examples

Compliment and complement are pronounced the same, but they have different meanings.

  • Compliment (with an “i”) can be used as a noun to refer to admiration or praise. As a verb, it refers to the act of praising.
  • Complement (with an “e”) can be used as a noun to refer to something that completes or enhances something else. As a verb, it refers to this act of completing or enhancing.
Examples: “Compliment” in a sentence Examples: “Complement” in a sentence
Hannah received a compliment on her new summer dress. The acidity of the wine complements the flavor of the fish.
Peggy complimented Alex on his excellent gardening skills. The color of the painting is a nice complement to the color of the furniture.

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Awhile vs. A While | Difference & Example Sentences

Awhile and a while are pronounced similarly but have different grammatical roles and slightly distinct meanings.

  • Awhile (one word) is an adverb meaning “for a period of time.”
  • A while (two words) is a noun phrase meaning “a period of time.”
Examples: “Awhile” in a sentence Examples: “A while” in a sentence
After his run, Dane rested awhile. We’ll go to the park in a while.
Jodi studies awhile each evening. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Stephanie.
Note
Although awhile and a while are often used interchangeably in informal writing, (e.g., “stay awhile”/“stay a while”), many style guides, including AP style and Chicago style, encourage you to pay attention to the difference.

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Toward or Towards | Difference & Example Sentences

Toward and towards are prepositions that can be used to mean “in the direction of,” “in relation to,” or “in contribution to.” While the words are used interchangeably, there is some regional preference:

  • In US English, “toward” (without an “s”) is more commonly used.
  • In UK English, “towards” (with an “s”) is more commonly used.
Examples: “Toward(s)” in a sentence
The river runs toward(s) the sea.

Natasha has a positive attitude toward(s) life.

This essay will count toward(s) your final grade.

Ronan contributed toward(s) the relief fund.

Note
Towards is still acceptable in US English, just less common, and the same goes for toward in UK English.

However, some style guides have specific rules about which you should use. Both AP style and Chicago style favor toward (without an “s”).

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Empathy vs. Sympathy | Difference & Examples

Empathy and sympathy are related words that differ in meaning. Though they’re often used interchangeably, they differ in the kind of emotional involvement they describe.

  • Empathy is a noun describing the ability to relate to another person’s feelings by imagining yourself in their situation.
  • Sympathy is a noun describing compassion for another person who is facing difficult circumstances or negative feelings. It suggests that you feel pity for someone but don’t necessarily fully understand their feelings.
“Empathy” in a sentence “Sympathy” in a sentence
Empathy is an essential trait for a therapist. I have sympathy for Jane’s struggle.
Carl’s response showed no empathy. Kevin has no sympathy for the less fortunate.
Bill is a sensitive and empathetic person. Neil seems to be very sympathetic.
Note
Different sources often contradict each other about the connotations of the two words. Sometimes, sympathy is taken to mean a distant or patronizing form of pity, or empathy is described as an intellectual rather than emotional understanding of someone’s feelings.

This article describes the difference between the two words as they are normally used.

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Comma Before or After But | Rules & Examples

You must put a comma before “but” when it connects two independent clauses. An independent clause can function as a standalone sentence (i.e., it has a subject and a verb).

Example: Comma before “but” connecting two independent clauses
Maria hoped to go for a walk, but it rained all day.

You must use a comma after “but” only when you include an interrupter. An interrupter is a word or phrase used to emphasize or qualify the statement and to express mood or tone.

Example: Comma after “but” when using an interrupter
But, of course, Natia knew that more guests would arrive.
Note
The same rules apply to using commas with the other major coordinating conjunctions: commas before and after “and”, and commas before and after “or.”

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Apart vs. A Part | Difference & Example Sentences

Apart and a part are pronounced similarly but have different meanings and grammatical roles.

  • Apart (one word) can be used as an adverb and adjective to describe separation or distance. It can also be used as a preposition in the phrase “apart from” to mean “except for.”
  • A part (two words) is a noun phrase meaning “a piece” or “a segment” of a greater whole. It can also refer to an acting role.
Examples: “Apart” in a sentence Examples: “A part” in a sentence
The tent was blown apart by the wind. Julie asked to be a part of our group.
The US and Europe are miles apart. He’s a respected actor who has played a part in Hamlet.
The siblings were born years apart A part of the puzzle is missing

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