And just what, may we ask, is the difference between these? While inquire means “to seek information in a formal way,” enquire means “to ask in a general way.” They can be used interchangeably. Inquire and enquire both originate from the same Latin word, meaning to seek. Both words mean to request information or examine facts. Inquire or enquire can be used as either a verb or as a noun.
As verbs, both words mean to ask for information. An example is “I should enquire how long this bus ride will take.” In this situation, the speaker wants to ask for information on the length of the bus ride. As nouns, these words become inquiry and enquiry, and mean the act of asking for information.
Generally, both inquire and enquire are pretty formal words compared to other words meaning to ask. In conversation, most people just use ask. However, there’s sometimes a slight difference in how these words are used formally and informally. In writing, whatever form is used typically remains consistent throughout the page, book, or publication.
American vs. British English
Inquire is more formal, and is used for situations of specific investigation. It’s more commonly used in American English. Inquire or enquire are also more often interchangeable in American English. Style guides in the United States typically favor it.
Enquire is more informal, and is used for asking questions in a general sense. It’s more commonly used in British English. Enquire is also more often used to show a difference from inquire in British English.