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Inquiry vs Enquiry

enquire inquire

Is it enquiry or inquiry?

There is always a difficulty in recognising American English spelling and British English spelling with words like these.

Whether we like it or not, much of our language is now heavily influenced by American English spellings.

British English uses both ‘enquiry’ and ‘inquiry’, but not in the same way as American English, which favours the ‘i’ spelling.

These words are related because the both look for information about something or to conduct a formal investigation (usually when followed by “into”).

But enquiry and inquiry do not mean exactly the same thing.

The en- prefix derives from French, whereas the in- form comes from Latin.

According to the Macquarie Dictionary, some organisations such as newspapers tend to prefer the in- form, but a distinction should be made between, for example, an official inquiry and an informal enquiry.

Enquiry

‘To enquire’ means to request information/look into. This is where the noun ‘the/an enquiry’ comes from.

Examples:

  • We ought to make some enquiries about the company.
  • They enquired about the football match.
  • He enquired about his health.

Inquiry

This is favoured in English only when talking  about investigations.

Example:

  • There will be an inquiry into this riot.
  • Edward is conducting an inquiry about social behavior.
  • It’s important to remember the importance of philosophical inquiry into religion.
  • The police announced an inquiry into allegations of abuse of the disabled people in Spain.
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