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Inquiry vs. Enquiry

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There are so many words in English that are either so similar to each other in spelling and pronunciation or their meanings are so close to each other that it’s almost impossible to tell them apart. This is the case with inquiry vs. enquiry. These words are especially confusing because they suffer from everything mentioned above: they are spelled similarly, pronounced similarly, and their meanings are quite similar (if not the same).

Today, I want to clear up any confusion or uncertainty that you might have in using these words in your writing, so you will be absolutely sure which word to use and when.

Enquiry as noun:

Inquiry is a word used in English language as a noun which means an act of asking for information.

The police were making enquiries in all the neighboring pubs.

Use of inquiry:

In American English, inquiry and enquiry are used interchangeably, with “inquiry” being the preferred option. Even though these two words are used interchangeably in American English, inquiry is used much more frequently and many style guides call for its use exclusively.

Example:

“Her book—part memoir, part critical inquiry touching on desire, love, and family—is a superb exploration of the risk and the excitement of change.” – The New Yorker

Use of enquiry:

In British English, the words are also used interchangeably, but there is a slight distinction beginning to develop between them. British writers now generally restrict “enquiry” to refer to the general sense of “ask a question,” whereas inquire and inquiry are used in contexts of formal investigations.

Examples:

“Germany drops inquiry into claims NSA tapped Angela Merkel’s phone.” – The Guardian

At least one job-seeker called Bannon the next morning to politely inquire if he had, indeed, taken the resumes with him. [The Connecticut Mirror]

Gratl told the inquiry earlier that the federal government’s application is too broad. [Vancouver Sun]

A criminal inquiry into phone-hacking at the News of the World could be reopened and staff prosecuted following legal action by some of its alleged victims. [Guardian]

Inquiry or enquiry:

Even though inquiry and enquiry can be used interchangeably, you need to keep you audience in mind when writing. In American English, both words can be used interchangeably, with inquiry being the more common, preferred word. In British English, both words can also be used interchangeably, but it is preferred to used inquiry for formal investigations and enquiry for general questions. If you are a British English speaker/writer and are looking for a way to keep track of which word to use and when, just remember that inquiry is preferred when referring to an investigation. Both words start with the letter “I.”

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"Inquiry vs. Enquiry." Grammar.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2017. Web. 23 Nov. 2017. <http://www.grammar.com/inquiry_vs._enquiry>.

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