Friday, February 1

Posted by Laurel Garver on Friday, February 01, 2013 7 comments
It's Phonics Friday once again, and I'm here to tackle a pair of homophones I've frequently seen mixed up, even in published books and newspapers--and on a billboard once, as well. Let's take a look at definitions, visuals, examples, and mnemonics to get the words clear in our heads. Because spell-check will not help you.


adj. -- most important, influential or consequential.

Photo credit: Jusben from 
n. -- person in the lead position of authority; chief; lead performer or star; person ultimately legally liable; one who engages another to act on their behalf, specifically, the person from whom an agent's authority derives.

My principal concern is my baby's safety.

The principal flautist took the stage.

Merrick Jones is the new principal of Jones and McDuff, CPAs.

Stephanie got sent to the principal's office because she sassed her teacher.

The principal is always alpha; all-important and influential.
"The principal is not your pal,"  Mr. Palgrave told naughty students.


photo by doctor_bob,
n. -- a fundamental law or doctrine; a core assumption; primary source or origin; an underlying capability or function.

NOTE -- principle is ONLY a noun. Its adjectival form is "principled."

He followed the principle of "pay yourself first" and put money in savings each payday.

I don't like mud masques or mud baths. It's the principle of it. How can dirt be cleansing?

Joe is very principaled about who he dates--only vegan nonsmokers.

The principle of a level playing field lets learners lead.

Which of these tend to trip you up? Any other sets I should cover in future posts?


  1. Haha, having English as my 2nd language I could probably give you a long list :) Great post, helpful! Thanks


    1. Thanks for the suggestions, Marja. I could tackle all those -ward words (toward, afterward, forward) in one go, since the differences are dialect-related (US English vs. other Anglophone contries).

      I'd never thought of then and than or lose and loose as homophones. I don't pronounce them the same. I guess that's a dialect issue too! :-)

  2. Replies
    1. Good one, Connie. I'll add it to my growing list!

  3. Wow, great explanation, Laurel! I always keep them straight by the one trick you mentioned about the principal not being a pal, (Although I adored by kids' principal, he really was a pal! ;o)

    1. Glad the mnemonic is helpful. I principal can be principled, and a principle can be principal, so I can see how the terms can get confused!

  4. Appreciate the breakdown. These words can be confusing!