inspect / inspection and investigate / investigation

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Senior Member
Japanese and Japan
Hi, friends.

Please tell me which of "inspect" or "investigate" should be used in such a context as follows:

There are many slopes in this area that are likely to cause rockfall. The project (by a public entity such as administration, research institute or university, not by individuals or commercial entities) is to check those dangerous slopes, find out how dangerous they are, and determine if they need any action to prevent rockfall, such as installation of fences. The staff should "visit all those slopes to make those checks."

Which is more appropriate, "inspect the slopes" or "investigate the slopes," when you "visit and make those checks" as listed above?

I checked the dictionaries for the definitions, and I understand the definition of each of them, but I cannot exactly decide which one is more appropriate in the situations as mentioned above.

Thanking you in advance,

  • Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    I would say "inspect the slopes".

    is what I say when I mean, "look over carefully for whatever you can find."

    Check is what I would say if I meant to look for one particular quality or aspect that I had in mind. "Check the slopes for loose gravel", for instance, or "check the angle of the slope."

    Investigate is what I would say if I thought it would take some looking and evaluating to find something that was not immediately obvious. Often, this would involve evaluating more than one feature. I think most often, this refers to the looking for the causes of some event or accident.
    Last edited:

    Harry Batt

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I think of these two words in terms of need. When something needs to be checked from time to time to determine if it is safe or unsafe, the need would be an inspection whose results could give a reason to check out something that is unsafe. When something is checked out because a likely unsafe condition exists that would be an investigation. Of course, the terms could be used interchangeably in many contexts without causing any concern to anyone.


    Senior Member
    Japanese and Japan
    Thank you all for such quick answers!

    Since the project I mentioned does not seem to go deep into the cause of rockfall or make any scientific analysis about the rockfall or slope failure, I think "inspect" is more appropriate for this kind of situation according to Cagey and Harry.

    I understand there are some cross-over areas to be covered by "inspect" and "investigate," but I have to decide either.

    I decided to go with "inspect."

    One last question, if you choose "investigate" definitely and only, not "inspect" or any other verb, what is the very thing that is to be done in this "investigation of slopes" which is not done in "inspection of slopes"?

    In other words, what is the thing or act to be done with respect to the slopes that makes this action definitely "investigation" not "inspection"?

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