'Inquiry' vs 'Enquiry': What's the Difference?

By Amy Gilmore, updated on October 5, 2023

Are you looking for an explanation of the difference between 'inquiry' vs. 'enquiry?' If so, this guide will help!

Here is a brief overview just in case you are in a hurry: 

  • 'Inquiry' is the U.S.-English spelling of the noun which means a request, investigation, or research for information often relating to public concern. 
  • 'Enquiry' is the British-English spelling of the term 'inquiry.'

If you want to learn more about these terms and when you should use each, keep reading!

What is the Difference Between 'Inquiry' vs. 'Enquiry?'

'Inquiry' and 'enquiry' are examples of dozens of English words that vary in spelling depending on whether you are using U.S. English or British English. However, their meanings are essentially the same.

Other examples of words with different U.S. and U.K. spellings are:

However, these terms also have a slightly different meaning in the United States. For example, some people use 'inquiry' for an official request for information or investigation into a public matter, and 'enquiry' for informal or formal requests.

Definition of 'Inquiry': What Does 'Inquiry' Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 'inquiry' is a noun that means:

  • The systematic investigation of a public interest matter

It can also mean:

  • A formal request for information
  • Research or an investigation into the facts surrounding a situation or event

Synonyms and Similar Words to 'Inquiry'

  • Investigate
  • Investigation
  • Question
  • Research
  • Probe
  • Inquest
  • Survey
  • Inquisition
  • Interrogation
  • Audit
  • Review
  • Examen
  • Query
  • Hearing
  • Challenge
  • Check
  • Poll
  • Grill

Definition of 'Enquiry': What Does 'Enquiry' Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Dictionary.com, and the Cambridge Dictionary, the definition of 'enquiry' is the U.K. spelling of the English term 'inquiry.'

However, Grammarly and several other grammar experts say that the meaning of 'enquiry' can also be an unofficial request for information.

Synonyms and Similar Words to 'Enquiry'

  • Inquest
  • Question
  • Interrogate
  • Investigate
  • Scrutinize
  • Probe
  • Explore
  • Scrutiny
  • Study
  • Query

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Inquiry' vs. 'Enquiry'

Now, let's learn how to pronounce 'inquiry' and 'enquiry.' Pronunciation is often overlooked by people who are learning new words. However, learning to pronounce words accurately has many benefits.

It can help you remember the correct spelling, definition, and meaning of confusing terms like these and give you confidence to use them in conversations or when you are speaking publicly. So, here is a guide you can reference for pronouncing 'inquiry' vs. 'enquiry.'

  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'inquiry':


  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'enquiry':


When and How to Use 'Inquiry' vs. 'Enquiry'

You learned the difference between these terms and their definitions and pronunciations, but it may still be challenging to know when to use 'inquiry' vs. 'enquiry.' So, here are some tips that should help.

  • Use 'inquiry' when you are writing a formal communication to an audience in the United States.

For example, you might say:

I submitted an inquiry to the appropriate office last week, but I have not heard back.

  • Use 'enquiry' when you are speaking to a British-English speaking audience.

So, you could say:

I have an enquiry. Do you know John's favourite colour?

  • Use 'inquiry' when you are speaking about an official investigation into a matter of public interest.

As an example, you might say:

This is an official inquiry into the current state of the public water system. 

  • Use 'enquiry' for an unofficial request or investigation when addressing a U.K. or U.S.-based audience.

So, you might say:

The enquiry was unofficial, but it was well-documented, as you can see in exhibits one through ten. 

How Do You Know Whether to Use British English or U.S. English

Knowing which English style to use depends on the audience you are addressing. If you are writing for a European website, you would use the U.K. style. However, you also use it when addressing Canadian audiences.

If you are writing professionally, your client should provide you with a style guide that indicates the style they want you to use when creating their content. If you are unsure after reading the instructions and style guide, reach out to your editor and ask.

Sample Sentences Using 'Inquiry' vs. 'Enquiry'

Here are some sample sentences using 'inquiry' vs. 'enquiry.' Read them to ensure that you know how to use each spelling accurately.


  • The attorney submitted an official inquiry in an attempt to uncover additional information in the case.
  • If anyone has an inquiry, they need to submit it by mail to this address.
  • All inquiries are handled by the Investigations and Discoveries Department on the 21st floor.
  • We have been receiving so many inquiries about the federal prison the government is building.
  • If your inquiry has many components, it will take longer to complete.


  • I have been receiving these enquiries for the past ten years, and yours was my favourite.
  • As soon as you receive an enquiry, you need to enter it into the Customer Relationship Manager so the rest of the team can access your notes.
  • You are welcome to submit an enquiry by email, but there is no guarantee the judge will read or respond to it.
  • If you do not receive a response within six weeks of submitting your enquiry it is unlikely that you will receive one.
  • Just to be clear about your enquiry, do you want pricing and stock quantity of the navy blue coloured velvet fabric?

Final Review: 'Inquiry' vs. 'Enquiry'

Congratulations! You finished the post. So, let's recap what you learned about 'inquiry' vs. 'enquiry.'

  • 'Inquiry' is the U.S. English spelling of the noun that means to question or investigate something in an effort to bring information to light. 
  • 'Enquiry' is the British English spelling of the term 'inquiry.'
  • Some sources report that 'inquiry' is more for formal inquests, while an 'enquiry' can be formal or informal. 

To be on the safe side, it is best to use 'inquiry' when you are writing for U.S. audiences, and 'enquiry' when you British English-style content. If you forget which spelling to use in the future, you can always return to this lesson for a quick review of this lesson.

You can also learn about hundreds of other terms in the confusing words here. So, if you have been wondering about the meanings of other English terms, check them out before you go.

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Written By:
Amy Gilmore
Amy Gilmore is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years. She developed a love of language arts and literature in school and decided to become a professional freelance writer after a demanding career in real estate. Amy is constantly learning to become a better writer and loves sharing tips with other writers who want to do the same.

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