Difference between Inquire and Enquire

Updated on September 15, 2017

Some people think that the word “enquire” is simply a misspelling of the word “inquire.” In fact, if you open a word processor right now and type “enquire,” the software is probably going to highlight it in red prompting you to correct the spelling. However, did you know that “enquire” is actually a valid word? How is it different from the word “inquire”? Read on and find out.

Definitions

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The word inquire is a verb that means:

  1. To seek or ask for information; for example: I need a photographer for my engagement party next month. I would like to inquire about your services and rates.
  2. To conduct a formal investigation; for example: The Senate inquired into the unexplained wealth of Mayor Smith and his family.

In American English, the word “inquire” can be used for either meaning. However, in British English, the word “inquire” is exclusively used to mean “to conduct a formal investigation.”

The word enquire, on the other hand, has the same meanings as “inquire.” However, in British English, it is solely used to mean “to ask for information.” It still exists in American English (with the same meaning as the word “inquire”) but it is not the preferred spelling.

Inquire vs Enquire

What, then, is the difference between inquire and enquire?

Traditionally, the two words are interchangeable. However, nowadays, the word “inquire” is more preferred in places where American English is spoken. In British English, the word “inquire” is used only when making formal investigations and “enquire” when asking general questions.

Comparison Chart

InquireEnquire
The preferred spelling in American English; means “to conduct a formal investigation” in British EnglishNot commonly used in American English; means “to ask for information” in British English
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