1. Principle, principal. The noun principle means “a general law, rule, or truth.” The adjective principal means “main, most important”; the noun principal means “a chief or head, the director of a school; a sum of money.” The base princip in each word carries the root meaning “prince” and comes from two earlier elements meaning “first taker.” The <le> in principle comes from Old French.
Principal analyzes to princip + al, the -al being the suffix that forms adjectives from nouns and bound stems, as in universal and liberal. It may help sort these two out to remember the sentence, “Our principal is my pal.”
Cross out the incorrect form:
a. The (principal, principle) of our school is over six feet tall.
b. Drinking and dancing are against her personal (principals, principles).
c. The (principal, principle) partner in their law firm is a man of high (principals,principles).
2. Capital, capitol. The adjective capital means much the same as the adjective principal, “main, most important.” It also refers to money and financing. The noun capital refers to the city in which a state or national government is located. It also refers to money and financing and to uppercase letters. Capital analyzes to capit + al, capitol analyzes to capit + ol. In each case, the base capit means “head, money”, as in decapitate, “to remove one's head.” and capitalist “one who invests capital in business.”
Capitol is not used as an adjective, and as a capitalized noun it refers to the building in Washington D.C. where Congress meets. It also is used in lowercase to refer to similar buildings in state capitals. Remember that capital is a city, capitol is a building. It may help to sort these two out to remember the sentence, “There is a dome on the capitol, and there's an <o> in dome and capitol.”
a. The (capital, capitol) of Washington state is Olympia.
b. The (Capital, Capitol) of the United States is in Washington D.C, which is the nation's (capital, capitol).
c. He invested his (capital, capitol) is stocks and bonds.
3. Desert (v.), desert (n.), dessert (n.) The verb desert “to abandon” and the noun dessert “the final course of a meal” are homophones. The verb desert and the noun desert “a barren place” are homographs. Their pronunciations differ only in which vowel has stress: As usual, the noun has stress on the first vowel, the verb has stress on the second. Both deserts analyze to the prefix de- “removal, separation” plus the base sert “attach, join, discuss.” The base sert also occurs in insert and exert.
Dessert analyzes to the French prefix des- “removal” and a different sert, this one meaning “serve”. Desserts are called desserts because they were the last course, marking the removal of the meal service. Some people keep dessert distinct from desert with the saying, “We had strawberry shortcake for dessert”: two <s>'s in “strawberry shortcake,” two <s>'s in dessert.
a. He was afraid they were going to (desert, dessert) him.
b. They had ice cream for (desert, dessert).
c. The (desert, dessert) of Arizona is very hot during the day but it can be quite chilly at night.
4. Council, counsel. The noun council means “meeting, assembly.” The noun counsel means “advice, consultation”; it also is used to refer to one's lawyer in a trial. As a verb counsel means “to offer advice, to consult with.” Council analyzes to the French prefix coun-, which is a form of our prefix com- “With, together,” plus the base cil “call.” Cil is a form of the base cile in reconcile.
Counsel has that same prefix coun- with the base sel, which comes from a Latin word that meant “to consult.” In fact, the sult in consult the sel in counsel are closely related. Remembering that <s> in consult should help you remember the <s> in counsel.
a. The Student (Council, Counsel) deals with certain discipline problems.
b. Her (council, counsel) and advice are usually very good.
c. At his trial his (council, counsel) told him to keep his mouth shut.
5. Compliment, complement. The noun compliment means “a statement of praise or regard”; the noun complement means “something that completes, makes better.” Both can be used as verbs. Compliment analyzes to com + pli + ment. The bound base pli is a form of the base in comply.
Complement analyzes to com + ple + ment, and its base ple carries the root meaning “fill.” The base ple is related to the base in complete.
a. She was obviously pleased with the nice (complement, compliment).
b. The new couch (complements, compliments) their other living room furniture.
c. He had two (complementary, complimentary) tickets to the ball game.