A Quick Grammar Guide: Enquire vs Inquire

So, as I said the other day, I’m having a bit of a grammar clampdown this month. This one came up in my proof work yesterday and I thought I would pass along the valuable lessons I learnt.

This is one of those where which form of English you are talking is important. If you are American English, then you will look at enquire and want to change the spelling. Current form uses inquire (and all subsidiaries) as first choice with enquire being considered, for the most part, a spelling mistake.

However if you speak real English (British English), then a nuanced difference between the two comes to be known. Inquire has come to mean that related to a form of formal investigation, i.e. “The police inquiry was not going well”, “He was going to inquire into the situation.” Enquire implies a question or an ask, i.e. “He enquired as to the nature of their relationship,” ” ‘Who are you?’ he asked but his enquiry fell on deaf ears.” If you are unsure, most guides recommend using enquire as a basic standard in British English, certainly the Oxford English Dictionary lists enquire as the primary choice.

Personally, I think this is one of those many examples of English getting lazy. Both words have meanings, similar meaning, but individual meanings. However, because we live in a world of such speed and laziness, people have started interchanging them rather than learning which one to choose, they have just chosen one and stuck with it. I sense the words effect and affect are going the same way. Which, to me, is terribly sad. We have a beautiful language. We should use it properly. Me personally, for so long as two words are listed as two separate entities in the dictionary, I will use them as such.

Lesson (and mini rant) ends.