Word Choice – Enquire Versus Inquire

Zabrina’s question: “This is something I have run into two days in a row – ‘inquire’ versus ‘enquire.’ Can you explain them and give examples?”

BizWritingTip response: In North America, enquire is just another spelling for inquire. (Inquire tends to be used more often.) According to both the Canadian and American Oxford dictionaries, either word can be used to “ask a question” or to “seek information formally.”

Examples (North American)

He inquired about her health.

She enquired my name.

You should inquire into the accident.

In British English, there is a difference between enquiry and inquiry. If you enquire about someone or something, you ask about them.

Examples (British style)

He enquired about her health.

She enquired as to whether we were going to the meeting.

In Britain, inquiry is used to indicate official investigations.

Examples (British style)

Are the police going to inquire into the accident?

We need to set up a commission to inquire into politicians’ pensions.

However, many British grammar books now say that if you can’t decide between the two words, go with inquire.

Frankly, I don’t see these words a lot in emails or letters. I would save them for when I want a formal tone in my document.