Enquire and Inquire : what is the difference?

Traditionally, the difference between  enquire and inquire is that enquire is used to mean to ‘ask’, and inquire is used to mean ‘to investigate’. But in modern usage there isn’t much of a difference in how they are used in either written or spoken English. Both are verbs.

  • Could I enquire about your last job?
    Well, in usual modern English you would be more likely to say ‘Can I ask about your last job?’. ‘Enquire‘ sounds very formal used like this.
  • Matilda inquired about the real facts regarding the report published by the government.
    Here, ‘inquire’ is appropriate.
Enquire and Inquire
Is there a difference?

Enquire and Inquire : Used differently in British English and American English

  • Enquire is more common in British English. 
  • Inquire is more common in American English.

Enquiry and Inquiry : The noun forms

  • I’d like to make an enquiry about the cost of your hotel rooms.
  • The police inquiry is almost completed as they have questioned all of the witnesses.

Why the confusion between inquire and enquire?

Well, ENquire is the Old French (enquerre) form  which itself stemmed from the Latin ‘inquirere’ (that give us the alternative – INquire) . It seems both had pretty current usage since written English became a thing.

Some people feel that there is a difference in meaning and that ‘enquire’ means to ‘ask a question while ‘inquire’ means to investigate but over time this has become another one of those blurry distinctions in English.

Anthony Hughes
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