Ah, English! If there weren’t so many words that sound almost identical with extremely similar—if not precisely identical—meanings, it wouldn’t be the wonderful, maddening language we love, right? But if you’re not a fan of wordplay or you simply can’t keep ensure vs. insure straight, we’re here to make it much easier on you.
So what’s the difference between insure and ensure? Weirdly enough, Merriam-Webster suggests that there are instances where they are interchangeable with one another—or even with the word assure. Though the primary meaning of each word is distinct, each has a secondary meaning. At this point, you might be tempted to throw up your hands, convinced that you’ll always use the wrong one and that it might not even matter which you use.
Don’t give up! There’s an easy way to distinguish between ensure vs. insure, and it’s a simple little trick. If you’re going to use insure, you should probably be talking about insurance (as in an insurance policy). Since both words are spelled with an i, they’re easily connected, so when you use insure, you’re most often going to be talking about something you’re insuring, like a car, a house, or your life.
Ensure is used a bit differently and means to guarantee that something will happen. When you’re ensuring something, you’re promising it will come to pass. It can help to think of ensure as a replacement for the word guarantee.
Some may feel that this is too simplistic a way to put the insure vs. ensure debate to rest because both words have multiple meanings. All in all, though, if you choose to look at it this way, it will save you a lot of grief.
Still feeling unsure about ensure vs. insure? Here are a few sample sentences using each word to give you a clearer idea of how to use them both.
Insure: To provide or obtain insurance for
Ensure: To make sure, certain, or safe
Now you’ve got a handle on insure vs. ensure, but what about assure? This word sounds very similar to the other pair, but assure is the act of taking away someone’s doubt. In this case, it is similar to the standard meaning of ensure, but rather than guaranteeing something, you’re sort of smoothing things over, reassuring someone, or making a promise.
Did this help? Because I can assure you that the next time you have to ensure your car is insured, you’ll be much more prepared to discuss—and even to write about—the finer points of the issue!
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