Insure vs Ensure: Which Is It?

Every so often in English grammar, you run into words that look similar but have different meanings. Insure vs ensure are two such words. These words are not only similar in sound, but also similar in meaning. Yet, similar does not mean you should switch them.

The meaning of “Insure”

Having an insurance policy protects something or someone. To insure is to create this kind of agreement. This states that if something happens to the someone or something insured, the insurance company will compensate.

The meaning of “Ensure”

Ensure means to take precautions against something happening. To ensure something means to be on your guard against it.

Insure vs Ensure: How to Use Both Words in a Sentence

When you mean guarantee, you should use ensure. For example:

  • John must ensure that accurate records are kept.

Securing a sum of money in the event of loss or damage will require reserve insurance, so use insure in that case.

  • John insured the table for $2,000.

The reason people mix up insure and ensure is because they are homophones. These words are spelled differently, but they sound the same.

However, insure and ensure are not considered proper homophones in the United Kingdom. This is because in Britain, the vowel sounds are pronounced in a different way.

History of the Insure vs. Ensure debate

Contention between these two words and how they are used has a long history, going back to 1440.

The spelling variations insure and ensure were apparently prevalent throughout English for several hundred years. It was not surprising during this period to find them being used in the same way with the same meaning. Sometimes, even within the same sentence.

However, some persons believed this was messy. They began to disagree with this in the middle of the 19th century. Those that wrote dictionaries started to look for a better way of defining ensure and insure.

The Best Way to Teach the Difference Between Insure and Ensure

As an English teacher, here is one of the best way to have your students understand the difference between insure vs ensure. You have to teach them how to spell these words.

Once they can spell the words and understand that they are two different words. Then, you can request that they note the situations that they are used in. From this process, they should see that meanings are different.

Takeaways – Insure vs Ensure

Insure and ensure are homonyms. That means they sound the same, but they have different meanings.

Part of the confusion stems from the history of both words. At one time, they were both meant to convey the same thing. The confusion remained even when the meanings were officially separated.

When you are teaching, you want to make sure your students know the difference. First of all, encourage them to use each word appropriately.

For simplicity, think of insure as an adjective describing an action or condition. People take out insurance to protect their assets. Therefore, it is an adjective that is used to describe the action of doing something to protect your assets.

When it comes to safety, the adjective ensure is often used to describe it. You make sure someone is safe by ensuring the safety of his or her environment.

We hope this article helps you understand the difference now.

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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