Ensure vs. Insure

Q: Are “ensure” and “insure” interchangeable?—Anonymous

A: Some stylebooks say yes, and some say no. Are you any less confused? These two words are often used in place of each other, but WD’s style separates them.WD—and many other publications—uses “insure” only when referring to financial insurance policies. After signing a contract with a professional baseball team, Jack decided to insure his pitching arm for $1 million. When the meaning is “to make certain,” WD sticks with “ensure.” It’s my job to ensure that you don’t misuse terms like these.

There are some newspapers and magazines, such as The New York Times and The New Yorker, that still use “insure” in both instances, but it’s fairly archaic to do so. Most publications differentiate the two.


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14 thoughts on “Ensure vs. Insure

  1. Avatarrcalicea

    It’s so annoying when publications use the word “insure” when “ensure” is intended. The words are not “interchangeable” as some grammar sites profess. If they were, then cars can be ensured and confusion can be insured.

  2. Avatarsflaniken

    I’m with Bob… either I never noticed, or it’s just been too long!

    I just checked out your Dad’s Blog and got quite a chuckle. Thank you! I’ll go to sleep with a smile on my face!


  3. AvatarJohnA

    I don’t believe the two words are interchangeable, and rarely use insure when ensure will do.

    However, just to confuse the issue – as you chose to use insure as an example – in the UK, insurance refers to the kind of cover that might, or might not, pay out; e.g: car insurance – or Jack’s pitching arm. A policy that will pay out, on death or maturity, is referred to as ASSURANCE.

  4. Avatarhiramdavis

    I always use ‘insure’ because ‘ensure’ denotes pomposity; an attempt at trendiness. It’s like using ‘grey’, the British spelling, instead of ‘gray’. I believe writers who use ‘grey’ are striving for that same pomposity.

    1. AvatarJohnA

      Safe to assume, then, that you see author E.L.James as extremely pompous.

      FYI, a quote – though probably not original – from the Mighty Red Pen: “I assure you that we have insured the grounds to ensure that we will be protected in case of a lawsuit stemming from an accident.”

    2. Avatarrubyblueroses

      Yeah, I feel that’s entirely opinion, because I don’t find them interchangeable. I only use insure when I’m speaking about the insurance of something. Ensure more for assuring something intransitive, like JohnA painted.

    3. AvatarSchwarzkatz

      Hardly, hiramdavis! As a Brit, I don’t see them as interchangeable, and ‘grey’, to me, is the correct spelling – certainly not ‘gray’ (although we have ‘Gray’ as a surname here). I have to admit that it’s quite surprising, though, how alike both versions of the English language are, despite how far away our countries are from each other. To an English person to use ‘insure’ when ‘ensure’ is what’s needed is quite simply incorrect; ‘ensure’ is certainly not pompous! (My American daughter-in-law disagrees with some of my vocabulary!)

    4. Avatarzeblon

      My high school English class taught ensure vs. insure exactly as it is presented here. This was 30 years ago, in the United States, so it’s not a matter of being trendy or trying to sound British. It always grates on me when I see insure used where ensure would be a better fit. In fact I ended up here today because I ran across a CNN article that used insure incorrectly (at least according to my education), and I wanted to see what the grammar police had to say about the issue.


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