Context Description:

I'm a programmer. One day I find an interesting software IPFinder published by Fred, but I can't understand how it works. So, I want to write an email to ask Fred.

  • A. What's the mechanism of IPFinder?
  • B. What's the principle of IPFinder?

Which is more proper in such a context, mechanism or principle?

  • I agree with @ruakh (but am no programmer): what's wrong with asking How does this work? – anongoodnurse Dec 20 '14 at 5:28

Both questions are valid, but they mean slightly different things. This is how I would interpret them:

What's the mechanism of IPFinder? = How does IPFinder perform its task(s)?

What's the principle of IPFinder? = What is the concept that underpins the way IPFinder is written?


I don't think either of those sentences is very clear. The way that something works can definitely be a mechanism or a principle, but each of those words has a variety of meanings, and "What's the mechanism/principle of IPFinder?" just doesn't give enough context to identify the exact meaning that is meant.

I think you're better off just asking:

How does IPFinder work?

or, to make clear that you're interested in technical details rather than end-user documentation, you might write something like:

How does IPFinder work under the hood?

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.