Is it enquiry or inquiry?

Iraq Inquiry logoI was watching some of the Iraq Inquiry last week. And it got me thinking: when do we use inquiry and when do we use enquiry? A quick search online reveals that some institutions use both (yes, I’m talking about you Evening Standard).

However, it’s generally considered that enquire is the British spelling and inquire the US spelling. But as we can see from the Iraq Inquiry that’s not strictly true.

In fact, we use both spellings in the UK.

Enquiry means to request information or to look into.

I received an enquiry from a journalist.
He enquired about my health.
We need to make some enquiries and get back to you.

Inquiry is used for official investigations.

The police will launch an official inquiry into the riot.
The Iraq Inquiry is taking place in London.


  • Ben Locker
    Posted at 18:34h, 25 January Reply

    I think it’s perfectly permissible to use either, in either context, as long as you’re consistent. Though, as you say, the US tends to use ‘inquire’, whilst in the UK we tend to use ‘enquire’ to mean ‘ask’ and ‘inquire’ to mean ‘make investigation’.

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