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Commonly Confused Words: Enquire vs. Inquire


What does each word mean?

Historically, the distinction between the verbs enquire and inquire is that enquire is used to mean ‘ask’ in the wider sense, while inquire is reserved for formal investigations. In modern usage, however, enquire (and the noun enquiry) are more commonly found in British English and inquire (and the noun inquiry) are more commonly found in in American English.

Click here to see the Spellzone dictionary definition of enquire and here for the vocabulary lists related to the word. 

Click here to see the Spellzone dictionary definition of inquire and here for the vocabulary lists related to the word. 

Here are both words used in some example sentences:

  • She enquired about the prices of various travel packages. 
  • The police officer inquired as to what the suspect had seen. 
  • They enquired about the museum’s opening times.
  • He inquired about whether or not the hotel was pet-friendly. 

Where does each word come from? 

Both enquire and inquire come from the Old French ‘enquerre’ meaning ‘ask’, from the Medieval Latin ‘inquerere’. 

Are there any tricks to help remember the difference between enquire and inquire?

You're probably safe to stick to enquire if you’re writing in British English and inquire if you’re writing in American English as long as you make sure you consistently use the same one throughout your piece of work. Some style guides may have a particular preference, so make sure you check before submitting a piece of work. 

If you're keen to use these words in their traditional sense, remember that enquire is an everyday ask whereas inquire is a formal investigation, 

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15 Aug 2019
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