According to dictionary.com, Enquire and inquire mean the same thing. They’re both formal ways of “asking about” or “investigating” something.
The difference between these two words is subtle. Let’s take a closer look.
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In North America, People Inquire
Inquire is more commonly used in Canada and the United States. Enquire isn’t used much at all – and both words are considered pretty formal. In other words, you’re far more likely to hear someone “ask” about something than “inquire” about something.
Here are a couple of sentences that use the word inquire.
Example #1: Phil called his doctor to inquire about making an appointment.
Example #2: Theresa texted Tracey to inquire about her dinner plans.
Notice the formal tone. Phil inquired about making an appointment. I can easily imagine him wearing a suit… peering at his day timer through a monocle.
Should You Enquire or Inquire in Britain?
In British English, inquire has traditionally been used to describe a formal or official investigation. Most British people automatically assume the police are involved when the word “inquiry” is mentioned. Enquire is a general term used when people ask about something.
Here are a couple of sentences that illustrate the subtle difference between enquire and inquire, in Britain.
Example #1: The police called to inquire about Jason’s whereabouts last Monday.
Example #2: Samantha called the babysitter to enquire about her availability on Saturday night.
The tone is still formal, but both of these words are used more frequently in Britain than they are in North America.