Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Enquiry and Inquiry

english wordsEnquiry vs Inquiry

These days, the two terms are often used interchangeably. However, there is a difference between the two. Enquiry means to ask a question, and inquiry is a formal investigation. Yet another difference lies in the etymological source of the prefixes ‘en’ and ‘in’. ‘En’ comes from French, and ‘in’ from Latin. Inquiry has a formal and official ring to it, while enquiry is informal in its connotation.

In general parlance, it is understood that enquire is to be used for ‘asking’, while inquire is what constitutes ‘making a formal investigation’. In reality though, enquiry is preferred in British English, whereas the Americans are more comfortable with inquiry. As a matter of fact, it is only in British English that any attention is paid to the distinction. In US and Australian English, inquiry has, for all practical purposes, taken over.

Another way of distinguishing between the two terms, is to know the differences between the Enquiry Based System of Education (ECB) and the Inquiry Based System of Education (ICB). At the ECB, the students are encouraged to be naturally inquisitive and curious, and base their queries on their innate desire to learn. In the latter case, the focus is on conforming to the syllabus, and asking questions which assist with that task, while not paying too much attention to attaining pure knowledge.

If you wanted to find a place where you could order your visiting cards, you would make enquiries with your friends or business associates. On the other hand, if a former employer of yours were to withhold your dues, you would get an inquiry instituted against him by the relevant authorities.

In spite of there being a clear distinction in the meanings of the two terms, people, more often than not, use them interchangeably. You could say that enquiry is a request for truth, knowledge or information, whereas an inquiry is an investigation into something.

For the common man, the two are the same, and he could use the two terms for the same thing, without a thought, and be well understood by everyone. People that are more erudite and aware, would perhaps be more careful with their choice of terms, and use the one that is appropriate for the occasion. However, in certain matters, such as an official inquiry ordered by a court of law, you would think twice before replacing inquiry with enquiry.

Summary:

1. Enquiry means asking a question, and inquiry is a formal investigation.

2. The prefix ‘en’ comes from French, and ‘in’ from Latin.

3. Enquiry is a request for truth, knowledge or information, whereas an inquiry is an investigation into something.

4. Enquiry is preferred in British English, whereas the Americans are more comfortable with inquiry.

5. In spite of there being a clear distinction in the meanings of the two terms, people often use them interchangeably.


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13 Comments

  1. Thank you very much! ;-)

  2. Very clear/easy to be understood.
    Thank you!

  3. Very informativfe,, well explained.
    Thank you!

  4. Sounds like this was written by a real scholar. I would, however, trust the explanation a lot more if the writer had said “In spite of THERE being a clear distinction” instead of “In spite of THEIR being a clear distinction.”

    • Thanks. You saved me from saying this. I was looking for a polite (and possibly private) way of letting the writer know.

    • guys…. there is no gramatical error in the use of the word THERE.
      In this situation, it has been used in the adverb – noting a position or place…. (the position is that there is no clear distinction)…
      Had they used the word THEIR, they would have been eluding to ownership…. ie, that is THEIR house, that is THEIR car…..
      There is no ownership of a clear distinction, therefore their would be the incorrect word to use in this context….
      :-)

      • Mel, the original article DID use the word ‘their’, however this was changed to ‘there’ upon it being brought to the writer’s attention.

  5. insightful approach

  6. Thank you,now I am very clear about that

  7. I appreciate the explanation. Thanks

  8. Great explanation, I would have overlooked the simple error which has now been rectified but thats just me.

    thanks

  9. Sorry buddy, Australian english prefers Enquire rather than inquire… Still a british colony afterall.

  10. Thank You so much for a very clear explanation.

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