One of our readers, Susabelle wrote to ask:
Can you take on explaining the difference between “inquire” and “enquire?”
These are two spellings of the same word, which means to seek information about something or to conduct a formal investigation (usually when followed by “into”). The corresponding noun is enquiry or inquiry.
Either spelling can be used, but many people prefer enquire and enquiry for the general sense of “ask”, and inquire and inquiry for a formal investigation:
- I enquired his name
- The first enquiry in my inbox today was about lost property.
- We are going to inquire into the incident.
- The lawyers asked when the inquiry will be completed.
In practice, enquire and enquiry are more common in British English, and inquire and inquiry are more common in US English, for both informal questions and formal investigations. However, the Guardian (a British newspaper) tells writers to “use inquiry” and the Oxford English Dictionary seems to recognise inquire as the more dominant form, deeming enquiry:
”An alternative form of INQUIRE. The mod. Dicts. give inquire as the standard form, but enquire is still very frequently used, esp. in the sense ‘to ask a question’.”
So, it’s up to you which spelling you use, though if you’re writing for a particular publication, it’s worth asking about their house style. Sticking with inquire is probably best if you’re at all unsure, and whichever you pick, be consistent!
Quotation with Inquire and Enquire
… or if we are called to your home; Ziman said. Even in misdemeanor arrest situations, we are not going to inquire about immigration status. The department does pursue that avenue in conjunction with the federal … (www.chicagotribune.com)
… Mr. Sessions’s overlooked role as a key witness in the investigation into whether Mr. Trump tried to obstruct the inquiry itself. It also suggests that the obstruction investigation is broader than it is widely understood to be … (www.nytimes.com)
… to publicly pressure Mr. Mueller to stick to that timeline and trying to assuage the president by predicting the inquiry will end soon, a strategy that some of his other lawyers tried, with mixed results. … (www.nytimes.com)
Philisophical enquiry allows children the opportunity to discuss a topic or issue as a class, regardless of their background or ability to speak English. (www.theguardian.com)