In British English, some people tend to make the distinction between enquire and inquire as follows:
- The verb to enquire = to ask (the noun is enquiry)
- The verb to inquire = to investigate (the noun is inquiry)
- I would like to enquire about swimming lessons?
- She was making an enquiry about swimming lessons.
- They inquired about the incident.
- I am making an inquiry about the incident.
In American English, the word inquiry is used for both asking and investigating, according to The Pocket Writer’s Handbook by Martin Mander & Stephen Curtis (Penguin Reference Library)
According to the Daily Writing Tips site – http://www.dailywritingtips.com/inquire-vs-enquire/ – more modern dictionaries list inquire as the standard form, but do give a mention to the word enquire; the Collins English Dictionary & Thesaurus lists enquire as a variant of inquire.
My thoughts: From my research today, I have found that enquire and inquire can be used interchangeably, which shocked me a bit as I have always made the distinction as in the definitions above. I’ll be looking out for how it is used in any text I read and may even start to use inquire. Whatever you decide, just try to be consistent.
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The Pocket Writer’s Handbook by Martin Mander & Stephen Curtis (Penguin Reference Library)
Daily Writing Tips website: http://www.dailywritingtips.com/inquire-vs-enquire/
Collins English Dictionary & Thesaurus (UK)