the world's premier FREE website for learners + teachers of English
Joe's Cafe

Principle or principal?

Here are two more words that sound exactly the same but have different meanings.

A principle (noun) is a firm belief that someone has about something, or a rule about the way that something works:

  • It is against my principles to borrow money.
  • Jet engines work on the principle that hot gases expand.

A principal (noun) is the head of a college or school:

  • I hear that our principal is going to resign.

(You probably know that “pal” means “friend”. So one easy way to remember this one is to think of “my pal the principal“.)

Principal (adjective) means”main” or “primary”:

  • My principal objective is to complete my studies.

70 Responses to “Principle or principal?”

  1. hanane says:

    Hullo Dear Sir,
    to be honest, this is the first time i noticed the difference between the two of words at the level of meaning. i did always thaught that they are identical, exept that “principle” is british and “principal” is american.
    You are a great a person. thanks

  2. trovizo says:

    To keep your principle is the principal for a good life.

  3. Rahmat shah says:

    i m love the way u teaching us… Dear kinldy send me some audio casets … if possbile

  4. banay says:

    To whom it may concern,

    Thanks for the explanation of principle & principal.

    Have a good day!


  5. alex says:

    The definitions of these words are clear. Thank you for helping me to learn more about English.

  6. Reda el sayad says:

    Indeed I can say or write nothing except thank you for your great efforts to make all people aware of the secrets of the English Language .

  7. Ahmed says:

    Thanks my dear for the explanation. I know the differeces between these words but really you refresh my background.
    thanks a lot

  8. Alpesh says:

    Dear Josef,

    Your activity is really a unique. Its not only informative but also enjoying. In india english is a product. You should start something in this country. People need the intelligent one with having a intellectual property.



  9. Seyyed Akbar Hatami says:

    Dear josef.
    I really appreciate your effort to help and persuade us in learning english.English is my third language(turkish and persian) and i do it good.
    thanks alot,

  10. Markatia A.Aziz says:

    Now present days English is necessary need of our daily life, but unfortunatly in sub-continent lot of my age peoples (more than 50 years old) faces Bundles of troubles to facing daily life transaction, but now your site provide us to face easily to our daily life. I am thanksful to all concerned and pray the god they bless you for all time. Thanks Markatia A.Aziz

  11. Chhay Keomony says:

    It is really nice learning English with you. Thank you very much for spending your valuable time teaching us to lighten us up.


    Keomony Chhay

  12. G.Fathima says:

    I feel it, as a sort of refreshment which I very much in need of.
    Thanks for your effort.

  13. HAJIR says:

    Dear josef

    i m very interst with english club and i feel it is principal source to learn english language

    best regard

  14. deepa says:

    Engilish is my second language, when I read I think I know everything, but when I need to speak there is nothing. Thanks to you for updation of my english knowledge. Really, Thank you, Very much!

  15. Su Su says:

    Thanks for your explanation this words .I don’t know the difference between these words .I really appreciate your effort to me .

    Thanks alot ,
    Su Su

  16. fatima zohra says:

    thank you very much

  17. Mary Matlaa says:

    All most I miss spell and also miss use these words.Thank you very much MR Joe to make me very carefully to use these words next time,I also mix the meaning.I lent a lot about these words in improving my English Language through English club com,Therefore I ‘ll never miss use these words again.

  18. faisal laphi says:

    May 21st, 2008 at 17:10 pm
    I really appreciate your club for improving my english.
    Best Regards.

  19. Jehovanna Arcia says:

    This is a good example why “the learning of the part of the speech” in the English language plays an important role in the acquisition of the English language, not only for second learners but also for native speakers. In the case of the native speakers the learning of the part of the speech helps them fill the gaps they may have when reading (input). My personal point of view is that learning the part of the speech in the English language helps students profit from their “free voluntary reading” (Krashen, FVR). This is the grammatical sensitivity necessarily to learn a second language. English has simply become a word order language.

  20. Luba says:

    Thank you for your fine and hard work to teach us an undestanding of English.

  21. Jane says:

    Dear sir:
    How are you? Nice to meet you, sir.
    I’m addicted to English. I can’t talk clearly.
    This is my first time to leave comment here.
    I’m glad to do it.

  22. Ngoc Le says:

    I’ve studied english for a long time, but this is the first time i noticed the difference of two words. It’s really a great information for me to study english well.

  23. mabior says:

    How creative u are ! that’s where things start to be tricky in learning language. I saved them into my English forever.

  24. Cedric says:

    Dear Sir,

    A big thank you for your website. I learn a lot of interesting things about English Language. So my English improve a lot! Before I visited your website about a year ago I never heard about word stress, a rule must be followed to pronounce properly a word in English and, also, to be sure to be understand!
    Regards, Cedric Engelberts

  25. Pen says:

    Thank you very much for this important informations ,because this two words confused me many times .please send me more like these differences between words . Thank you again for your effort and i feel my English will be improved with you

  26. Pen says:

    Thank you for this good information ,because these words many time confused me.please send me more .
    thank you or effort and i feel I will improved my English with you

  27. Ghassem says:

    thank you for the inforamtoin.I learn more about that.
    thanks a lot.

  28. Rosangela Taylor says:

    Please, see the examples below:

    “…the book is: The Insider’s Guide TO BuyING a New or Used Car by Burke Leon.”

    “When it’s a referral, there’s already a predisposition TO likING and openness, so that’s easier.”

    “In addition TO beING an instructor…”

    In those examples, the verb after “to” comes in the ING form (to buying; to liking; to being). My question is: why? What determines that we use the to+verb+ing and not the infinitive form of the verb on these phrases? What’s the rule?

    I think the rule is: when the verb is actually a noun, we use the ING form. But if this is right, why should I say “In addition TO beING an instructor…” if that verb seems to mean only a verb and not a noun? “In addition to be an instructor…” would be wrong, then?

    I’m looking forward TO hearING from you! 😉

    Thanks a lot!


  29. Mohit says:

    Thanku very much sir for this kind of good knowledge.pls always mail me and its increase my knowledge of english……

  30. Joe says:

    Rosangela: about ING you might do better to look at:
    or to discuss the question at:

  31. Rosangela Taylor says:

    Thanks, Joe! I’ll do that then!

  32. Nina says:

    I am so glad to learn this website, i was confused using Principle and Principal but then I understand now.

    Thanks Sir

  33. kj says:

    Another way to remember:

    principLE and ruLE end the same way!

  34. Harjeet Singh says:

    Thank you for the info. Good tip for students that I prepare for TOEIC exams.

  35. Qahir says:

    Salam Dear:

    I am appreciate your effort to help me in learning english.

    this is best way for me because I want learn english.

    Best regards


  36. hafid says:

    thanks a lot for this knowledge and valuable tips.

  37. esam says:

    Good effort, thank you.

  38. Rakesh kumar says:

    I would like to say a few words on the new style for learning the English through ur site; it is too good. I like to appreciate ur performance, learning and teaching style.

  39. Thanh Toan says:

    Dea Josep
    Thanh you very much for your explanation about “Principal” and “principle”.
    It makes me feel more confident when using them.
    Thanks again and good luck.
    Thanh Toan

  40. Francisco cassongo Mambe says:

    Principle :is the idea to begin doing some thing;Pricipal:is the top.

  41. mohamad says:

    hi id like to express how much that aim astonished of this new words bu case aim only was known word PRINCIPLES nothing more

  42. Ahnan says:

    Wow. The explanation about the words is 100 % clear. I like it.

  43. shivani says:

    thankyou for giving us the knowledge about good english
    i really appreciate it.infact thanking you is also a good way to express words in english.

  44. Phung Thi Hoa says:

    Thanks Joe. I really appreciate your explanation on difference between these two words. I often use: financial principles, my private principles in my job. Otherwise I will take into account of this word in my vocabulary.

  45. vijay says:

    i got the real difference between principle and principal.
    i am very happy to join in this group.

  46. mohamd hefnawi says:

    Dear sir

    thank you for the inforamtoin.I learn more about that.
    thanks a lot.

  47. mohammad zaher says:

    thanks for your help that teach english as a secound Language.

  48. Julie says:

    That’s great explanatio of the words PRINCIPLE and PRINCIPAL. I’d love to explain to some friends about the definition and examples of the two words.

  49. Ngoc Thuy says:

    Dear Sir,

    Thanks for your interesting lesson.
    It’s very useful for ESL learner.
    I like your way of teaching English so much!

    Thanks & Best regards,

  50. Alice Le says:

    Dear Mr. Josef,

    The information is really interesting and useful for me. I highly appreciate the lessons you give us. Thank you very much for your efforts.

    Have a nice day!
    Best regards,

  51. mice slavkovski says:

    Dear Mr. Josef,

    I very happy because I can learn a lot of things of English language skills on your blog. Today, I learned where could we use the words principle and pricipal. I also learned another idioms/phrashes and verbs from the English grammar. Could you send me some similar words with different meaning(on my e-mail adress).Thank you very much for your corporation.

    Best regards,
    Mr. Mice Slavkovski

  52. Jean Bernard Rameau says:

    Dear Mr. Josef,

    I just want to say thanks and congratulate you on the tremendous work you’re doing. your help is really helpful. Keep it up.

    Best regards,
    Jean Bernard Rameau

  53. Omar says:

    Thanks for your help

  54. fatimah says:

    thank you for the help.The explanation is very clear and the tip makes it all the more easy to remember.

  55. WAfa Nouri says:

    Dear Mr Josef,

    I can not express my feelings and how much happy and proud I am to join in this group. I am learning more and more and benefits from your websit and all great informations that you submitted to us to improve our english language
    I really every day I find out on your websit all Useful informations that I have not lerned at univeristy, attempting to use them in my work to improve my language .

    My respect and many thanks for you and all teachers and I highly appreciate all your great effortes with us .

    Hopefully to send me more and more by email

  56. amina says:

    hello sir
    thank you so much for shoing us the different between these words…………many poeple confuse between them and so i was
    really thank you so much mr,josef
    and iam waiting for more tips
    your best regards

  57. Lan Thanh says:

    Hi Joe,
    Your entry is really interesting. You know, I sometimes confuse these two words just because they have the same pronunciation. I really like the relation between the word pal and principal which you give us, it’s easy to remember. Thanks alot for your explaination, bye Joe and hope to receive more interesting things from you.
    Your new friend,

  58. Intizam Farajov says:

    Thanks for the explanation of principle & principal. Indeed I did not know the difference between them.
    I really appreciate your effort to help.
    Thanks again

  59. Gerson Freire says:

    I am writing here for first time, but I’ve been reading your comments and tips for a long time. I think this is one of the best web site that I’ve seen so far. As many comments posted here, I am more one user that have been tried to learn English as the second language and you have been helped me a lot. So, thank you so much for all aids sent before.

  60. Alvaro Grcia says:

    Thank you very much for your explanations about the meaning of these two words.However,I’ve noticed that there is another meaning for principal,for example: In banking business is very common to hear : Please,apply these funds to reduce principal (balance due) and interests on this loan. Am I right ?

    Best regards

  61. Gloria Mendoza says:

    Two years ago I had a neighbor that came from New Zealand, he was the principal of primary in a very important school that is located in my neighborhood. He is a person with excellent principles.

  62. Sisse says:

    Thank you so much,ı think these are very good tips.

  63. Helmi says:

    thanks for such explaination and hounestly,it’s my first time to know the differences between the two notions.

  64. fathi says:

    Thank you for your kind explanation about the deferrence between these two words that may confuse many student>

  65. salah says:

    Thank you very much for good information you always give us ,(student who learn English as second language )you give us very useful information about all English skills- we need more and more


  66. Lovelylions says:

    Thanks so much! Now I thought that my mind has opened more.
    So long Mr.Joe!

  67. yassir says:

    dear Mr Josef,
    im a university student from morocco,im regularly keeping in touch with” englishclub” lessons,frankly speaking, i benefit a lot from all information u provide us with.I hope the best for this club since it is a window through it we see all kinds of knowledge that can be helpfull in learning english.


  68. mukesh says:

    hello sir i am from India so i have learnt this different thanks you for telling this two words

  69. Hida says:

    Hello Sir,
    That’s really interesting, actually all your lectures are of a great importance for me, and for learners in general.
    I believe there are a countless number of confusing words like “principle” and “principal”…
    We all covet for more words and more explanations…Thank you Sir.

  70. areeba jamal says:

    respected sir ,

    i am a ca student . your words really helped me but kindly would you give a detailed explanation so that it will be easy for me to remember it. thank you.

Leave a comment