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A reader writes:

“Using ensure and assure interchangeably bothers me.”

ensure

Maybe using assure upsets the stomach?

Seriously, though, it bothers us, too. Plus, there’s the related word insure. So, let’s explore …

Many thesauri list these as synonyms for each other, so that helps to confuse us further … In general, to assure is to lend confidence, to ensure is to confirm, and to insure is to indemnify (as with an insurance policy) – and insure may have legal implications.

As per the AP Stylebook: Use ensure to mean guarantee: Steps were taken to ensure accuracy. Use insure for references to insurance: The policy insures his life.

Another source adds: Assure most commonly means “to remove doubt about, to guarantee, to set one’s mind at rest.” It is a verbal statement of certainty.

YourDictionary.com presents helpful tips:

To help you remember when to use each word, keep the following three hints in mind:

  1. You assure a person.
  2. You insure your car.
  3. You ensure everything else.

assure. verb (used with object), -sured, -sur⋅ing.

  • to declare earnestly to; inform or tell positively; state with confidence to: She assured us that everything would turn out all right. 
  • to cause to know surely; reassure: He assured himself that no one was left on the bus. 
  • to pledge or promise; give surety of; guarantee: He was assured a job in the spring. 
  • to make (a future event) sure: This contract assures the company’s profit this month. 
  • to secure; render safe or stable: to assure a person’s position. 
  • to give confidence to; encourage.
  • Chiefly British. to insure, as against loss.

ensure. verb (used with object), -sured, -sur⋅ing.

  • to secure or guarantee: This letter will ensure you a hearing. 
  • to make sure or certain: measures to ensure the success of an undertaking. 
  • to make secure or safe, as from harm.

insure. verb (used with object)

  • to guarantee against loss or harm.
  • to secure indemnity to or on, in case of loss, damage, or death.
  • to issue or procure an insurance policy on or for.
  • see ensure (defs. 1–3). 

insure. verb (used without object)

  • to issue or procure an insurance policy.

Sources: dictionary.com, e Learn English language, APStylebook, YourDictionary.com

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