Ever wondered whether to enquire or inquire? Or, did you think they are interchangeable?

Both words originate from the same Latin word ‘inquirere’, which means ‘to search out or investigate’. Perhaps, this is why some people think they are alternative spellings of the same word.

Besides the small difference in the initial letter in their spellings, the usage has traditionally differed between these words. Enquire is generally used when ‘asking for information.’ Inquire has meant ‘a formal investigation.

In formal writing such as reports, inquire is used more than enquire when referring to formal or systematic investigation.

Here’s more on the usage of these words.




Enquire Ask for information, informally 


The client enquired about the progress of the project.

New associates enquired about the innovative software tools developed by the company.

Inquire Make a formal investigation 


The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) held an out-of-turn inquiry into the finances of the department. 

The module leader inquired about the algorithm used by the developer team for the search functionality in Knowmax.

Note: The differentiation between ‘Enquire’ (and enquiry) and ‘Inquire’ (and inquiry) is more evident in British English. In US English, ‘Inquire’ is often used interchangeably (for informal asking and formal investigation.)

Remember the thumb rule—enquire for asking informally, and inquire when investigating formally.