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What is the Difference between Insure and Ensure?

A business owner will insure his property against earthquakes, to ensure that his business is covered in case of damage.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Jay Garcia
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2014
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The difference between insure and ensure is subtle, especially when one throws the related word “assure” into the mix. Some people have strict rules about the usage of these two words while other people use these words more or less interchangeably. The important thing to know is that, most of the time, interchangeable use is correct, except in very special circumstances, which we will discuss in a moment. Thanks to the fact that these words sound similar, if you accidentally mix them up in a spoken sentence, someone is unlikely to call you out on the difference between insure and ensure.

Assure, insure, and ensure all come from the same Latin root which means “to make secure.” Assure entered the English language first, in the 14th century, with “ensure” and “insure” following in the 1600s. All of these words have very similar meanings, suggesting a sense of making something certain or guaranteeing something.

The main difference between insure and ensure is that you insure something to be prepared in case something bad happens, while you talk about taking steps to ensure that something will (or won't) happen. For example, you insure your house against water and fire damage, but you put snacks in your car to ensure that you will have snacks if you get stuck in traffic. “Assure” is usually used in reference to putting someone's mind at rest and guaranteeing that something will happen, as in “I assured Sally that the memo would be finished by 3:00.”

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Because the difference between insure and ensure is subtle, many people use these words interchangeably, unless they are talking about an insurance policy, an agreement with a company in which the company agrees to pay out a set sum in the event of a problem. You insure houses, cars, and other properties, and you can also purchase health and life insurance to guarantee payouts in the event of injury, sickness, or death. In some nations, people refer to life insurance as life assurance, stressing the idea that a payout will be guaranteed at some point because everyone has to die eventually.

Here's an example of all three words used in a sentence: “Joe assured his wife that he would insure their home to ensure that earthquake damage would be covered.” In this case, the protagonist of our brief story assures someone, putting her mind at rest so that she doesn't have to worry by affirming that something will definitely happen. He claims that he will insure his property against damage from earthquakes, preparing for an unfavorable event, to ensure or be certain that if their home is damaged in an earthquake, they will be able to rebuild or repair it.

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anon961305
Post 8

Insure should only be used when referring to insurance (health, auto, home insurance). Ensure is used when you are saying "to make sure".

anon318952
Post 7

"make sure" = ensure

"just in case" = insure

I find these thoughts help.

"Please just in case that the report findings are implemented" does not sound as appropriate as "please make sure that the report findings are implemented."

anon314318
Post 6

Thanks, this helps a lot. The way I see it, insure is more passive, ensure is more active. You insure/ensure 'something'. If what you are doing is actively causing that something to happen, you are ensuring. If what you are doing is preparing in case something happens but not actively causing that something to happen, you are insuring. So to expand on the snack example: "I put snacks in my car to ensure that I will have snacks if I get stuck in traffic, insuring against hunger."

@anon120482: That is correct. You are actively doing something to ensure the samples are on order.

anon158247
Post 5

Gosh, in the financial community I have always said "please insure that the report findings are implemented". Or, "please insure that the staff is notified". I'm confused. -toronto

anon120482
Post 4

Well explained but I am still not totally sure which one to use in this next sentence. "Can we ensure all these samples are on order as soon as possible?"

anon99029
Post 3

I have to say I was writing a sales contract and wanted to ensure that while drafting this document I assured my future buyers that I will insure their purchases. Thanks!

GeminiMama
Post 2

anon80885- I couldn't agree more, this author probably has the best explanation of the difference between the three words. I love the example sentence where all three are used in their proper reference.

I hardly use the word insure because I refer that specifically with insurance. Assure and ensure are similar enough to me; I might get a little daring and see if my professor would think differently on my next writing assignment.

anon80885
Post 1

well explained.

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