One of my readers has asked about the difference between enquire and inquire as well as enquiry and inquiry. The answer: no difference exists. “Enquire” and “enquiry” are both variants of “inquire.” In general, “inquire” is the more commonly accepted and used word. It’s only the neighbors across the pond who take exception with the generality.
Even Brits don’t take exception all the time. The British rule of usage may state that “enquire” and “enquiry” should be used in informal settings, but British people don’t always follow the rule. They use “inquire” and “enquire” interchangeably. It’s understandable; both words mean to seek for information.
The variation in usage is found in the secondary definitions of inquire and inquiry. The two words relate to formal investigations. Webster’s Dictionary says that an inquiry is “a systematic investigation often of a matter of public interest.” “Enquire” and “enquiry” do not carry that connotation even though they are derivatives of “inquiry.” Thus, a British person might say that Scotland Yard had issued an “inquiry” regarding an event but not an “enquiry.”
Of course, it may be a little pointless to get caught up in the enquire versus inquire debate. The two words mean the same thing. Since “inquire” is the commonly accepted word, the best course of action is to use the more commonly accepted one.
Have a grammar or writing question for Write Right? Ask on the Facebook page or in a comment here.