Inquire

Should I Write Inquire or Enquire?

The Quick Answer

  • If you're American, use "inquire." It means "to investigate" or "to ask."
  • If you're British, use "inquire" for "to investigate" but "enquire" for "to ask."
The verbs "to inquire" and "to enquire" are similar in meaning. However, they are not interchangeable. In the UK and outside the US (e.g., Canada, Australia), "to inquire" means "to investigate" or "to conduct an official investigation," while "to enquire" has a meaning similar to "to ask."

In the US, "to inquire" is strongly preferred for both meanings (i.e., "to investigate" and "to ask"), but "to enquire" is seen occasionally as an alternative spelling, especially for the "to ask" meaning. Nevertheless, if you're following US writing conventions, you are advised to use "inquire" because most Americans will treat "enquire" as a spelling mistake.

Example Sentences with "Inquire"

  • I would like to inquire further into your results. They could be significant for the whole city. correct tick (small British flag small American flag)
  • The judge demanded the police inquire the defendant's claims. correct tick (small British flag small American flag)
In both the UK and US, "to inquire" means "to investigate."

Example Sentences with "Enquire"

  • I would like to enquire about the availability of the dance hall. correct tick (small British flag) wrong cross (small American flag)
  • (The vast majority of Americans would use "inquire.")
  • The police enquired about the robber's accent. correct tick (small British flag) wrong cross (small American flag)
  • (The vast majority of Americans would use "inquire.")
Now, let's look at the example above a little more closely. For the British, both "inquired" and "enquired" could be correct. "Inquired" would mean "launched an official investigation" while "enquired" would mean "asked some questions." However, if the verb were "inquired," the accompanying preposition would be "into." With "enquired," the preposition is "about."

The Accompanying Prepositions

If you're talking about an official investigation, there's a good chance the preposition will be "into." If you're simply asking, the preposition is likely to be "about." This is a useful observation because, in the US, there "inquiry" can mean "to investigate" or "to ask." So, to be sure which meaning is intended look at the preposition. If it's "into," inquiry means "to investigate." If it's "about," "inquiry" means "to ask."

In the US, "inquire" can be followed by "into" or "about"

  • She will inquire into benefit fraud.
  • ("To inquire into" means "to investigate.")
  • She will inquire about the rooms.
  • ("To inquire about" means "to ask about.")

In the UK, "inquire" is followed by "into."

  • She will inquire into benefit fraud.
  • ("To inquire into" means "to investigate.")

In the UK, "enquire" is followed by "about."

  • She will enquire about the tickets for the concert.
  • ("To enquire about" means "to ask about.")

Other Observations

The British tend to construct sentences that feature the noun "inquiry" rather than the verb "to inquire." The verb "to inquire" ("to investigate") is quite rare. For example:
  • I would like to launch an inquiry into your results. correct tick
  • The judge demanded the police conduct an inquiry into the defendant's claims. correct tick
  • (Using the noun "inquiry" ("investigation") sounds more natural to the British ear.)
The same issue does not occur with "to enquire" and "enquiry." Both sound natural. For example:
  • I have an enquiry about the availability of the hall.
  • I would like to enquire about the availability of the hall.
  • (These both sound okay to the British ear.)
Read more about inquiry and enquiry.
to inquire
author logo

This page was written by Craig Shrives.