Inquiry vs. Enquiry – How To Distinguish Them

19.10.23 Commonly confused words Time to read: 5min

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Commonly confused words are a widespread phenomenon in the English language. Specifically, “inquire” and “enquiry” are often used interchangeably, although their meaning may slightly vary depending on the context and regional dialect. To convey the correct meaning and connotation, it is essential to be able to make a distinction between these two terms. This article aims to provide clarity on when to use each term appropriately in academic writing.

Definition of “inquiry”

“Inquiry” and “enquiry” are both nouns and refer to the process of gathering information, performing research, or submitting an information request.

Inquiry

… is a noun and is generally used for formal investigations.

Enquiry

… is a noun and is used for any requests, regardless of formality.

The key to distinguishing “inquiry” from “enquiry” lies in various aspects, such as usage, formality, and the English dialect in which they are used. In British English, “inquiry” is mainly used for official proceedings or investigations, while “enquiry” is mainly used in a casual and informal context. However, these are not official rules in regard to using them. In American English, “inquiry” is the preferred word and refers to both meanings.

Note: Although both “inquiry” and “enquiry” are correct vocabulary, American English has mainly adopted the word “inquiry.” In British English, both words are still used with a minor difference in meaning based on the context.

Using the word “inquiry”

The word “inquiry” can be used in different ways depending on the context and dialect. Essentially, “inquiry” only acts as a noun and its meaning varies depending on the level of formality.

“Inquiry” as a noun

The noun “inquiry” functions grammatically in English as a singular, countable noun. When the word “inquiry” is used as the subject of a sentence, it refers to the act of asking a question or seeking information. When the word is used as an object, “inquiry” refers to the specific question or investigation being conducted.

Examples

  • The inquiry into this matter is still ongoing. (Subject)
  • He submitted an inquiry about the product’s availability. (Object)
  • The incident is being under inquiry by the police. (Subject)

Tip for using “inquiry” correctly

Substituting “question,” “query,” “request” or “investigation” for “inquiry” may be a useful way of learning how to use “inquiry” correctly. It’s integral to keep your wording clear and precise to make sure the term you pick corresponds to the appropriate level of formality or detail when replacing “inquiry” with synonyms. Keep in mind that you must take the context of your writing into account when selecting the most suitable term.

Synonyms Examples
Investigation The police launched an inquiry into the crime scene.
The police launched an investigation into the crime scene.
Query Can I submit an inquiry regarding the billing statement?
Can I submit a query regarding the billing statement?
Question I have an inquiry about the upcoming meeting.
I have a question about the upcoming meeting.
Request I have an inquiry for more information about the job opening.
I have a request for more information about the job opening.

Using the word “enquiry”

The word “enquiry” only takes on the function of a noun, which can, however, act as different components of a sentence structure depending on the context.

“Enquiry” as a noun

The word “enquiry” can be used as a noun to depict the process of requesting information or making a request. Depending on the sentence structure, it can serve linguistically as the subject or object. In essence, it is mostly used in an informal and casual context.

Examples

  • Hey, I have an enquiry about that new restaurant. (Object)
  • I wanted to make an enquiry about the price of that dress. (Object)
  • My friend’s enquiry about the price was answered promptly. (Subject).

Tip for using “enquiry” correctly

You can use synonyms like “question” in place of “enquiry” in casual sentences. These equivalents frequently appear in informal conversation and have a more relaxed tenor. Since the word “enquiry” has largely been replaced by the word “inquiry” in everyday language nowadays, the synonyms that can be used for “enquiry” hardly differ from those used for “inquiry”.

Synonyms Examples
Query Can I email you a brief enquiry about the meeting's schedule?
Can I email you a brief query about the meeting's schedule?
Question I have an enquiry about the upcoming party.
I have a question about the upcoming party.
Request I'm going to send them an enquiry to find out more details about the party.
I'm going to send them a request to find out more details about the party.

Test yourself!

Practice sheet

Test your comprehension of differentiating “inquiry” from “enquiry” by filling in the gaps in the ten sentences below. You may then confirm your knowledge by looking up the right answers in the following tab.

  1. Please send us your ______ about the party by email, and we will respond within 24 hours.
  2. The customer’s ______ about the product was dealt with promptly by the support team.
  3. I have an ______ about the availability of concert tickets.
  4. The committee has conducted an ______ to look into the allegations of misconduct.
  5. You are welcome to contact us if you have an ______ about the upcoming event.
  6. Thank you for your ______, and we will provide you with the requested information shortly.
  7. The police have launched an ______ into the mysterious disappearance of the valuable artwork.
  8. The conference organizers are happy to respond to the ______ from a potential participant.
  9. The lawyer’s ______ has uncovered crucial evidence to support their case.
  10. I wanted to make an ______ about the cost of hiring a car for the weekend.
  1. Please send us your enquiry about the party by email, and we will respond within 24 hours.
  2. The customer’s inquiry about the product was dealt with promptly by the support team.
  3. I have an enquiry about the availability of concert tickets.
  4. The committee has conducted an inquiry to look into the allegations of misconduct.
  5. You are welcome to contact us if you have an enquiry about the upcoming event.
  6. Thank you for your enquiry, and we will provide you with the requested information shortly.
  7. The police have launched an inquiry into the mysterious disappearance of the valuable artwork.
  8. The conference organizers are happy to respond to the enquiry from a potential participant.
  9. The lawyer’s inquiry has uncovered crucial evidence to support their case.
  10. I wanted to make an enquiry about the cost of hiring a car for the weekend.
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FAQs

In British English, “enquiry” often refers to a broad query or casual request for information, whereas “inquiry” usually refers to a formal inquiry or official affair. Both phrases are equivalent in American English, although “inquiry” is more frequently used.

For formal investigations, you commonly use “inquiry,” while “enquiry” is mainly used for informal proceedings.

  • The lawyer’s inquiry has uncovered crucial evidence to support their case.
  • I have an enquiry about the availability of concert tickets.

In the UK, there is a subtle difference between the words “inquiry” and “enquiry.” “Inquiry” is used in a formal context, whereas “enquiry” is used in a causal context.

An “enquiry” is a proceeding or process used to collect information with the aim of receiving a specific answer. Enquiries can be very diverse depending on the context, setting, and English dialect.

Yes. “I have an inquiry regarding …” is a commonly used phrase in the English language. This statement is typically used when someone wants to ask a question or seek clarification regarding a specific topic.