If you decide to take the free Grammar Mastery Quiz, you’ll eventually come to #40, which has turned out to be confusing for many.
Question 40: The department’s principal/principle concern is the safety of all employees.
First, let’s figure out what part of speech the word is in the sentence above. Since it describes concern, which is a noun, it must be an adjective. The word principle is used only as a noun. Principal may be either a noun or an adjective. When it is an adjective, principal means “first or highest in rank, importance, value, etc.; chief; foremost.”
Let’s double check. Can we substitute any or all of these definitions for principal in the sentence?
The department’s first/chief/foremost concern is the safety of all employees.
Obviously the answer is yes, so the correct answer is, “The department’s principal concern is the safety of all employees.
Posted on Monday, April 21, 2008, at 9:06 pm9 Comments on Principal vs. Principle