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Enquiry vs. Inquiry

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  Angbeen Chaudhary  —  Grammar Tips

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, we will 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:

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

The police were making enquiries in all the neighbouring pubs.

An official investigation is also known as enquiry.

Use of Enquiry:

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.


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 Inquiry:

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.


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]

Talks not serious, but Rockies inquire about Rangers all-star Young [Denver Post]

One of the vintner’s shareholders sought to inquire about a wallaby pictured among the vine. [Sydney Morning Herald]

Enquire or inquire:

Enquire and inquire are often just different spellings of the same word. Where the two are used for the same purposes, inquire is the more common form. This extends to derivative words (inquiry, inquirer, etc.), and it is the case throughout the English speaking-world. There is one qualification to this. Some Britons make the distinction that enquire and its derivatives apply to informal queries, and inquire and its derivatives to formal investigations. While this distinction appears widely borne out in more carefully written British texts, it is less pronounced in more informal types of writing (some news websites, some blogs, web comments). 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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