Principal vs. Principle | Definition & 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.|
Principal as a noun
Principal can be used as a noun to refer to a person in authority, especially in a school but also in other contexts such as businesses.
It can also refer to someone who is responsible for a crime.
Principal can also be used in financial contexts to refer to the capital sum of a loan.
Principal as an adjective
Principal can be used as an adjective to mean “primary” or “most important.” It can also be used to refer to an original sum of money.
Principle is a noun
Principle is a noun used to refer to a legal, natural, or scientific rule or standard. It can also be used to refer to a general or personal moral standard.
Principle can only ever be used as a noun (the associated adjective is “principled,” meaning “based on principle”).
In principle or in principal
In principle is a common expression meaning “in theory.” It’s used to refer to a plan or idea, the details of which have not been established. “In principal” is never correct.
Worksheet: Principal vs. principle
You can test your understanding of the difference between “principle” and “principal” with the worksheet below. Fill in either “principle” or “principal” in each sentence.
Other interesting language articles
If you want to know more about commonly confused words, definitions, and differences between US and UK spellings, make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations, examples, and quizzes.
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