Enquiry vs. inquiry - any difference in BE?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by JamesM, Apr 4, 2007.

  1. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    We're having a discussion here at work. Most of us think that "inquiry" and "enquiry" are synonymous, and that "enquiry" is the BE spelling of AE "inquiry." One person insists that both words exist in BE and mean different things. One is a simple question or query and the other is a formal investigation.

    Can anyone confirm or refute? Can you offer any sources showing the differences, if any?

  2. Matching Mole

    Matching Mole Senior Member

    England, English
    I concur with this assessment:


    Last edited: Mar 2, 2010
  3. mgarizona

    mgarizona Senior Member

    Phoenix, AZ
    US - American English
    Is that difference only made in BE? I remember in high school (in Florida) being taught that an 'enquiry' was a 'query' while an 'inquiry' was an 'inquest.'
  4. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    I have checked several sites, mgarizona, and it apparently comes down to a BE/AE difference. In several AE dictionaries, "enquiry" is listed as a variant of "inquiry."

    I imagine there may be some AE English teachers who have picked up the BE difference, but I know many AE speakers who would consider "enquiry" odd, if not actually a misspelling. :) It's fairly rare to see enquiry in written form from an AE speaker.

    In a business letter exercise:

    "Dear Sirs:

    Thank you for responding to my _______ regarding my account." (enquiry/inquiry)

    would have most AE speakers filling in "inquiry", I'd say, and they would not mean "inquest" by it.
  5. Matching Mole

    Matching Mole Senior Member

    England, English
    The Oxford Dictionary for Writers & Editors marks the entry for "enquiry" thus: [Brit.] so it's clearly marked as British usage.

    It defines "inquiry" as "an official or intellectual investigation" only with no other usage given.
  6. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I recommend this thread:
    Distinction between the words "enquiry" and "question", and comments on "inquiry".

    To summarise, and with a small apology for quoting myself:
  7. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    Thanks, Panjandrum. I actually searched for another thread and saw that one, but I didn't catch that it would contain the "inquiry/enquiry" distinction.

    I apologize for starting a new thread.
  8. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    No problem, James.
    I knew the content of that thread so I was able to find it easily.
    The title was not quite so relevant when I found it - it is now :)
    No apology required, thanks.

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