Principal vs. Principle: The Difference and How to Use Them

Grammar Rules updated on  April 14, 2023 3 min read

A principal is an important person or thing, or a person who runs a school. A principle is a rule or basic fact.

Definition of principal  vs. principle

To make the difference between principal and principle clear, let’s examine their definitions:

principal (n.): the head official at an educational institution; the first, most important, or most respected person in an organization or field; the first or most important item; the original amount of a loan; a person who appoints an agent or representative to speak or act for their company or organization

principal (adj.): first, most important, or most respected; having to do with a person or thing that is a principal

principle (n.): a rule, law, or standard; a fundamental truth or concept on which a system or belief is based

Why people confuse principal and principle

Principal and principle are homophones—two words that sound alike but have different spellings and/or different meanings. It's important you use the right one in every situation as to not confuse your audience.

If you need a simple way to remember the difference between principal and principle, think about the fact that principal, which can be a person or describe a person, ends with pal—a person—and principle doesn’t.

A principal can be your pal, but a principle can’t.

Another good option is to use QuillBot. Our Proofreader and Spell Checker catch this error every time.

QuillBot's spell checker makes sure that your work is error-free.

Examples of principal vs principle

Now that you understand how these two easily confused words differ, let’s seal the deal with some examples of how to use principal and principle in a sentence.

Principal (noun)

Liam wouldn’t stop bothering other students during class, so his teacher sent him to see the school principal.

Since buying her home, Layla has paid down 20% of her principal.

Gunjan Sharma is the principal of bancassurance at HDFC Bank, the largest bank in India.

Some of the principals of midcentury modern architecture are Ray and Charles Eames, Frank Lloyd Wright, Eero Saarinen, Isamu Noguchi, and Eileen Gray.

Principal (adjective)

For a professional athlete, staying healthy is of principal importance.

Kamari played a principal role in the success of the product launch.

Nakia’s principal investment of $5,000 has grown to $8,250.

Principle (noun)

Min’s artistic ability skyrocketed after she learned the principles of art rather than just winging it.

I object to that on principle.

Worldwide, the traditional view is that a man should pay the bill on a first date as a matter of principle; however, this view is increasingly being abandoned.

The list of similar words that people find baffling in English is long, so why not take advantage of the AI technology available to you?

Beyond distinguishing between words like principal and principle, QuillBot can help you use the right punctuation and streamline your writing, from academic writing to ad copy and everything in between.

When the spelling of similar-sounding words produces very different meanings, you've got to be sure you're using the right one. We're here to ensure that you do.

Is a person a principle or a principal?

A person is a principal. Since a principle is a basic concept or fact, it can’t be a person.

What is another meaning of principal?

Principal can be either a noun or an adjective. Besides a person who runs a school, it can mean the first or most important person or the person who represents a company in business. It can also mean the original amount of a loan. As an adjective, it describes the first or main thing or person.


Hannah Skaggs

Along with Paige Pfeifer

Hannah, a writer and editor since 2017, specializes in clear and concise academic and business writing. She has mentored countless scholars and companies in writing authoritative and engaging content.

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