Recently, a CISL student asked his teacher a great question:

What is the difference between “inquire” and “enquire?”

We thought it was such a good question that it deserved an entire blog post!


Definitions of “enquire” and “inquire”

The truth is, “enquire” and “inquire” are two spellings of the exact same word. According to the Farlex Dictionary, the definitions are:

1. To seek information by asking a question: inquired about prices.
2. To make an inquiry or investigation: inquire into the extent of the corruption.
The corresponding nouns are “enquiry” and “inquiry”.

According to the definitions, it seems that the only difference between the two words is the preposition used after each one: we use “inquire about” when we are seeking inform
ation and “inquire into” when we are investigating something.

General differences in the uses of “enquire” and “inquire”

Although either spelling is appropriate, many people prefer to use enquire for the word “ask”, and inquire for a formal investigation:
He enquired about his test score. 

I will enquire about your lost jacket.

We asked the police when our inquiry will be answered.

The police informed us that our inquiry had been received and was being processed. 


Most Americans will avoid using “enquire” and “enquiry” and it is generally believed that these spellings are more common in British English. However, the Oxford English Dictionary (which specializes in British English) states that “enquiry” is “an alternative form of inquire”. An alternative form? It sounds like that makes “inquiry” the primary form!  Several online dictionaries give the same definition for “enquiry”.

Our advice? Use whichever you prefer! And now, you have an interesting piece of information to share with your ESL friends!


Thanks to our CISL student for the inquiry enquiry inquiry!