It's the principle of the matter.

Discussion in 'English Only' started by genie_in_a_bottle, Nov 19, 2008.

  1. genie_in_a_bottle Member

    <<It's the principle of the matter.>>
    I just came across this expression. I have trouble figuring it out. Can someone help out?

    (Edited so the sentence the question is about is in the message box, not just the title box. -- JustKate, English Only moderator)
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 13, 2015
  2. losilmer

    losilmer Senior Member

    I have problems to understand this or that.

    It is difficult for me to have a clear concept of this.

    It´s hard for me to comprehend, to catch, to have the meaning of this
  3. yourfairlady05 Senior Member

    English - United States
    Can you tell us where you found this phrase?
    It tends to mean "its the priniciple/main idea/main theme of the subject/topic at hand"
    I hear it more often when people are upset like if a wife caught her husband lying about taking out the trash, and he says it's not like he was lying about anything serious she says "it's the principle of the matter". That is to say "you should never be lying". I hope that made sense!
  4. AngelEyes

    AngelEyes Senior Member

    English - United States
    I like what yourfairlady said. I understand her assessment and agree with it.

    I would add I think it also means the hidden, deeper meaning underneath any subject - the moral basis behind someone's behavior and words.

    Whatever philosophical standard we use by which we act or speak.

  5. Krew321

    Krew321 New Member

    English-United States

    It's the context of the phrase/situation rather than the content. For example, the doctor charged $5 for something, but it is something that should be included in his original fee. So you would say, I'm not paying it because it's the principle of the matter (not the cost).
  6. velisarius Senior Member

    British English (Sussex)
    Welcome to the forum, Krew.:)

    I don't know whether this is a BE/AE difference, but I'm not familiar with this phrase. I am familiar with these two expressions, which have roughly the same meaning:

    It's the principle of the thing.
    It's a matter of principle.
  7. Krew321

    Krew321 New Member

    English-United States
    Probably so. Silly Americans always blending and butchering. haha
  8. Sparky Malarky

    Sparky Malarky Moderator

    English - US
    When someone says "Its the principle of the thing" he is usually trying to do something. For example, maybe a company made a mistake and overcharged him a small amount of money. A lot of people would forget it, but he goes to a lot of trouble to have the mistake corrected. If he says "It's the principle of the thing" he means "I don't care about the $3.27, I only care because they made a mistake." Or if he sees a child punished for something another child did, and he goes out of his way to tell the teacher about it, "it's the principle of the thing" means "I'm not doing this because I like one child better than the other, I'm doing it because it's right."
  9. SReynolds Senior Member

    It's the principle of the thing. or It's a matter of principle. are the common expressions.

    You can also use on principle, which is more concise and, in my opinion, works better after conjunctions:

    I refused to pay the extra $1 on principle. or I don't read that newspaper on principle.

    This is not to be confused with in principle, which means in general.

    Edit: Oh, I've just noticed this is an old thread. I'll just leave this here regardless.
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2015

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