Enquiry or Inquiry?

by Craig Shrives

Enquiry or Inquiry?

What is the difference between "inquiry" and "enquiry"?

In the US, "inquiry" and "enquiry" are interchangeable, but "inquiry" dominates to the extent that many American readers will consider "enquiry" to be a spelling mistake.

In the UK, "inquiry" and "enquiry" are also interchangeable. However, the following distinction is emerging:
  • Inquiry. "Inquiry" is used for a formal investigation. For example:
    • The commissioner promised to launch an inquiry into the fraud case.
  • Enquiry. "Enquiry" is used for a standard question. For example:
    • I have received an enquiry about your daughter's situation.
enquire or inquire?

More about "Enquiry" and "Inquiry"

The nouns "enquiry" and "inquiry" can mean "question," "inquest," or "investigation." They can be used interchangeably. However, in the US, "inquiry" is more widely used than "enquiry" (to the extent that many will consider "enquiry" a spelling mistake of "inquiry").

(NB: The words "enquiry" and "inquiry" also have associated verbs ("to enquire" and "to inquire"). The guidance on this page relates to the verbs as well as the nouns.)

There Is a Distinction Developing in the UK

In the UK, a distinction between "enquiry" and "inquiry" is developing. The word "inquiry" is being used in relation to a formal inquest (i.e., an investigation), while "enquiry" is being used to denote "the act of questioning." However, there is still considerable leniency on this distinction.

Examples with Inquiry and Enquiry

The examples below align with the convention developing in the UK:
  • I would like to enquire about the toilet facilities in the hotel.
  • (Here, "to enquire" means "to ask.")
  • The judge has suspended the inquiry into the police shooting of the escaped mental patient.
  • (Here, "inquiry" means "inquest" or "investigation.")
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose? What are adjectives? What are nouns? List of easily confused words