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May 05, 2004



This is extremely late, but...

Ensure is used to describe any actions taken that will guarantee a particular desirable outcome will be achieved. The outcome may be seen as constructive (i.e. passing an exam) or preventative (such as avoiding a speeding ticket).

Insure is used to describe the financial transaction that transfers the risks associated with the occurrence of a particular event (which may or may not ever happen) from one person to another.

Thank you.


I think we are saying essentially the same thing.

Calum MacLeod

As a Brit, there is a clear distinction between ensure and insure. They are not synonyms and cannot be used interchangeably without giving the impression of having chosen the wrong word.

To ensure is to make certain or to make sure. You might ensure that the party goes well by inviting some pleasant people to it. You could not insure the party by so doing.

To insure is to guard against risk. Insurance does not ensure safety. In fact, if you could ensure safety, you should not need to insure at all.

Interesting blog by the way - very enjoyable the stuff about English usage :)


Thanks for the clarification -- I had a feeling that was the case but didn't feel confident enough to address it beyond the "U.K.


Inquiry vs. Enquiry:
Can someone say if this correct? Long ago my teacher told me that this was the distinction betwen these 2 words:
Inquiry: If you don't know where to start, you inquire about something. for example: He made inquiries as to trains trains leaving from New York to Philadelphia.
However, if you knew some of the details but wanted to find out more information, one would 'enquire'. for example: He enquired about the departure time of the New York to Philadelphia train. or The police conducted an enquiry of the murder.
Can anyone tell me if this is correct ?


Sorry, but that's a load of baloney! Americans just don't use "enquiry" at all.


There is a distinct difference in the usage of inquire and enquire - I remember it being one of those exercises I had to complete in elementary school grammar class, to choose the correct one to fill in the blank. Unfortunately I don't remember the difference, and perhaps since I now live in the US (my education was in the British commonwealth) I should do as the Romans and just not use enquire at all.

Amanda (NZ)

For all but the US where the 2 can correctly be used interchangeably, an enquiry is a request for information (eg enquiries desk at an organisation) and an inquiry is a formal investigation.


I absolutely agree that there is only a financial association with "insure" and a socialogical meaning to "ensure". I do not use them interchangeably (as a U.S. native) at all.
I have a perhaps exotic take on enquire/inquire.
I would "enquire" at the front desk of a building in which I am standing. But I would write to that same building to "inquire" (to ask generally, as an outsider) as to whether they have any open positions. I am sure that no one will agree, but this is how I use it!! So, it's where you are in relation to the building or business physically, if not sociologically. (E.g. You might enquire of your Human Resources director as to what the benefit details are since you are "inside" the company. But you would "inquire" to another employer as to what types of benefit packages they offer.)

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