Assure, Ensure, and Insure
By Richard Nordquist. Grammar & Composition Expert
Richard Nordquist, Ph.D. in English, is professor emeritus of rhetoric and English at Armstrong Atlantic State University and the author of two grammar and composition textbooks for college freshmen, Writing Exercises (Macmillan) and Passages: A Writer s Guide (St. Martin s Press). Richard has served as the About.com Guide to Grammar Composition since 2006. Read more
The verbs assure, ensure, and insure all mean to make certain or secure. According to Merriam-Webster s Collegiate Dictionary. insure sometimes stresses the taking of necessary measures beforehand, and assure distinctively implies the removal of doubt and suspense from a person s mind.
- Do not worry about your problems with mathematics. I assure you mine are far greater. (Albert Einstein)
- Supervisors should make every effort to ensure the safety of their workers.
- A dancer can insure her legs, an opera star her voice, and an actor his distinctive beard. The singer and comedian Jimmy Durante once insured his famous nose through Lloyd s of London.
- Use ensure to mean guarantee: Steps were taken to ensure accuracy .
Use insure for references to insurance: The policy insures his life .
(Norm Goldstein, ensure, insure, The Associated Press Stylebook. 2006)
- A few commentators. suggest assure for people, ensure for things, and insure for money and guarantees (insurance). These are nice distinctions, and you can follow them if you want to.
The rest of the recommendation rests on using ensure for general senses and reserving insure for financial senses. This distinction has been urged at least since Fowler 1926, especially by British commentators. It is in general true that insure is used for the financial uses (it must vex the British commentators to find assure still occasionally used in this sense by British technical writers). However, both insure and ensure are used in general senses.
Our most recent evidence shows that the distinction between ensure and insure is made more often in British written English than in American written English. and a few commentators hold that insure is more common than ensure in American English.
( ensure, insure, assure, Merriam-Webster s Dictionary of English Usage. 1994)
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- A person assures (makes promises to, convinces) other people. ; a person ensures (makes certain) that things occur or that events take place. To put it a little technically, if the verb is in the active voice. a predicate beginning with that should be introduced by the verb ensure .
(Bryan A. Garner, Garner s Modern American Usage. Oxford University Press, 2003)
(Paul Brians, Common Errors in English Usage. William, James Co. 2003)
(a) We _____ our cars because an accident can easily cost $10,000 or more, especially if it results in a trip to the emergency room.
(b) In real life, I _____ you, there is no such thing as algebra.
(c) Federal drug regulators need more power and money to _____ the safety of the nation’s drug supply.