The words ensure, insure, and assure are often confused with each other in English and leave people wondering which one is correct. And not without reason. It’s easy to gloss over these words in conversation because they all sound very similar when spoken. Plus, they’re only a few letters apart from each other, which adds to the confusion.
What are the Differences Between Ensure, Insure, and Assure?
Today, I want to clear up that confusion and outline the unique characteristics of each of these words. I will cover the functions, definitions, and grammar behind each word, so you can understand their differences and use them properly.
After reading this post, I can assure you will never misuse ensure vs. insure vs. assure again.
To start, all three words come from the Latin securus, meaning to make safe or to make sure. This is in part why they are so tough to keep apart, because they come from the same word and still have very similar meanings. All three words share an element of making an outcome certain, but they are used at different times and for different things.
When to Use Ensure
Ensure is a transitive verb meaning to make certain or guarantee. To ensure is to make sure that something will (or won’t) happen or be the case. For example,
- The sunscreen I applied ensures that I will not burn.
- You must take the proper precautions to ensure your privacy.
- To ensure that we don’t run out again, I ordered more food.
What makes ensure different from the other words is that we only ensure events or states of being; we don’t ensure things. This means that we ensure that we can get time off from work, but we don’t ensure our car.
When to Use Insure
Insure is also a transitive verb meaning to protect oneself financially by insurance. Insure, in best usage, is reserved for underwriting financial risk. For example,
- The company insured itself against losses by diversifying.
- You should insure your house against theft.
- Is your car insured for the full amount?
Insure vs. Ensure vs. Assure – How to Use Each Correctly
What’s the Difference Between Insure, Ensure, and Assure?
Insure, ensure, and assure have the same ending, and they all are all verbs related to the idea of certainty. However, these words have very important differences that mean you cannot use them in the same way.
Insure is a verb related to the noun insurance. It means to secure against loss or damage.
- Most people decide to insure their homes against fire damage or other common dangers.
Ensure is also a verb. It means to make sure or to guarantee.
- Wearing a bicycle helmet will ensure a higher chance of avoiding brain damage in an accident.
Assure is a verb as well. Its definition is to make someone feel sure by telling them something comforting.
- The son assured his parents that he would never smoke cigarettes.
Now, let’s go over a few ways you can use these words in your sentences.
Using Insure in a Sentence
When to use insure: Insure is a verb that means to guard against harm or loss. It often is used when talking about insurance policies.
- Even hundreds of years ago, merchants insured their ships in case the merchandise was lost in storms or pirate attacks.
- It is very important to insure your car. In fact, it is illegal to drive without car insurance.
Insure originally was an alternate spelling of ensure. However, by the mid 1600s, it had developed the specific meaning of protecting against harm through payment of premiums.
Using Ensure in a Sentence
When to use ensure: Ensure is a verb that means to make safe or certain.
- He brought a dozen water bottles to ensure he wouldn’t get thirsty.
- It’s a good idea to have a fire extinguisher to ensure you’ll be able to put out small fires.
Assure vs. Ensure vs. Insure
The heading might give the creeps for if you might somehow knew the differences of these three words before, you must have forgotten them written together. Assure, ensure and insure are word triplets that are most commonly confused in English language by many writers.
These words do not have the same meanings, sounds or spellings but their very close spellings and pronunciation is the root cause of all the confusion we have to face.
This article will help you understand each of these words to the core of its meaning making it easy for you to use them in your writing without a second thought.
Assure as verb:
Assure originated from Latin ad- ‘to’ (expressing change) + secures ‘secure’. It is used as a verb to tell someone something positively to dispel any doubts. Tony assured me that there was a supermarket in the village. Making sure of something is also assuring it.
She assured herself that he was asleep. Assure also implies to make something certain to happen. Victory is assured to the England team. In British, assure is used as a verb to cover a life by assurance. We guarantee to assure your life.
Also, to secure the future payment of an amount with insurance.
The sum assured can be paid as a lump sum.
Ensure as verb:
Originated from Anglo-Norman French enseurer meaning the same as ensure, it is also a verb used to make certain that something will occur or be the case. The client must ensure that accurate records are kept.
Ensure is also implied to make certain of obtaining or providing something. The legislation was asked to ensure equal opportunities for all. The word ensure means to make sure that a problem does not occur.
Only by researching stocks thoroughly, can a client ensure against being misled.
Insure as verb:
Insure is another verb that means to arrange for compensation in the event of damage to or loss of property, or injury to or the death of someone, in exchange for regular payments to a company or to the state.
The shop was insured for $2500. Securing the payment of an amount in compensation in this way is also called insuring it. Your new sum insured is shown on your renewal notice.
It is also implied for providing insurance cover.
Subsidiaries set up to insure the risks of a group of companies.
Insure is used as an alternative term for ensure. It is also used as a verb to secure or protect someone against (a possible contingency).
They appeased Celia so they might insure themselves against further misfortune.
- And after some hands-on time with the new game, I can assure BioShock fans that they need not fear the change. [Mirror]
- Good land, impressive yields, and federal tariff protection ensured profit margins for the antebellum elite. (Technology, Innovation, and Southern Industrialization, Susanna Delfino and Michele Gillespie)
- As the artworks gained value over the years, however, so has the cost of insuring them. [CBC]
There are two ways to guarantee privacy: by assuring anonymity and by assuring confidentiality. (Mass Media Research, Roger D. Wimmer, Joseph R. Dominick)
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Friday that the U.S. is “working around the clock” to ensure the safe return of American hostages. (TPM)
The improving mood has been seen in plunging yields on Dubai bonds and in the credit default swaps used to insure against the possibility of the government defaulting. (BDLive)
Assure, ensure or insure:
The three verbs are very much related to each other as all three of them deal with guaranteeing on thing or another. Assurance is the guarantee that something will happen however insurance is the policy that covers up any losses.
Ensure and insure are sometimes interchangeable with each other when they both have to do something which guarantees success. In American English, what you insure is a business transaction.
What you ensure results from your personal efforts.
Can you assure us that you understood the difference between the three terms?
Insure vs. Ensure – Word Counter
Lots of folks use “insure,” “ensure,” and “assure” interchangeably, especially in their speech. While these words sound similar and represent similar ideas, there’s no situation in which they could mean exactly the same thing.
Luckily, once you know the difference, it’s an easy mistake to avoid.
When to use Ensure
To ensure something or someone is to guarantee something will happen. It’s a promise of a future result. You may substitute the word “guarantee” to ensure you are using this word correctly in your writing.
- I brush and floss my teeth every night to ensure my gums will stay healthy.
- A bouquet of roses will ensure that your wife knows you were thinking about her this Valentine’s Day.
- Rob ensured his online safety by changing his password.
- Regular oil changes and maintenance ensure your car will last over 200,000 miles.
- Kelly made flashcards to ensure she would make a good grade on her exam.
Notice, some of the objects of “ensure” in these sentences are a little abstract. However, they are all the future result of something in the present.
When to use Insure
To insure something or someone is to cover it with an insurance policy.
The shared “in” beginning can help you remember.
- It was hard to find someone who could insure my boat.
- In the Midwest, most homes are insured against tornados.
- It’s against the law to not insure your car.
- There was a rumor floating around that the pop star had insured her legs.
- Kevin’s current policy doesn’t insure his visits to the dentist.
Notice, if you substitute “guarantee” for “insure,” these sentences do not retain their meaning. In fact, they cease to make sense at all. Additionally, the grammatical objects of “insure” in these sentences are much simpler.
When to use Assure
To assure someone is to lessen their doubt. The object of “assure” will always be a person.
- I assure you, I did not mean to step on your cat’s tail.
- Jane assured Mike she had locked the door by giving the knob a quick turn.
- When he asks for a raise, Ron will assure his boss that he will continue to work hard for the agency.
- Marissa assured her mom that she had studied and was ready for her test tomorrow.
- After the water pipes burst for the fifth time that winter, Mayor Johnson assured the town’s residents that the pipes would be fixed.
In each of these sentences, the thing being assured is a person or group of people. Of the three, “assure” is the easiest to remember—all you have to do is locate who is assuring whom.
Here are a few sentences to check your understanding.
Though Emily had only met her fiancé’s mother once, it was enough to (assure, ensure, insure) her that Emily would be a good partner.
Check the phone book to find a company that can (assure, ensure, insure) your storage building.
James (assures, ensures, insure) his dog gets enough exercise by running with her each morning.
Sally stayed up all night drafting a policy to (assure, ensure, insure) her client’s hovercraft.
We will (assure, ensure, insure) our victory over the school across town by practicing every day this summer.
I need to be (assured, ensured, insured) that you can deliver the package to me on time.
(Assure, ensure, insure) you have enough grain to last through the winter by saving 10 percent of each field you harvest.
We need to leave soon because Rick (assured, ensured, insured) Layla we would arrive at the play on time.
Allen’s company doesn’t (assure, ensure, insure) small planes.
The computer technician (assured, ensured, insured) Jaye that it wasn’t a virus that was causing the problem, but Jaye is still doubtful.
Answers: 1. assure, 2. insure, 3. ensures, 4. insure, 5. ensure, 6. assured, 7. ensure, 8. assured, 9. insure, 10. assured.
assure vs. ensure vs. insure on Vocabulary.com
Although these three often show up at the same party, giving hugs, they're not the same, thank you very much. To assure is to tell someone everything's ok, to ensure is to make certain, and to insure is to protect financially. Have it straight now? Are you sure?
To assure is to remove doubt, or confidently tell someone about something. It's generally followed by an object, so you assure someone. You can also tell someone to rest assured when you know everything's under control:
- “Rest assured that Brazil will have a great World Cup in 2014,” Rebelo said. (Washington Post)
- I assure you I meant no harm. (V for Vendetta)
- He considered retirement before doctors assured him he could still fight. (Newsweek)
Ensure, on the other hand, means to make certain a thing will (or won't) happen:
- Aides said the leaders conferred by telephone to ensure that their speeches, while different in tone, would not be incompatible. (Reuters)
- Roast Brussels sprout mixture on sheet pan for 12 to 15 minutes, shaking pan about halfway through to ensure even cooking. (New York Times)
- The “feed kids first” policy is designed to ensure that parents can eat in peace. (New York Times)
Finally, use insure when you need insurance. To insure is to arrange for financial compensation against the loss of something or against someone getting hurt or dying. You might insure your health, your Cadillac, your beachside condo, or your stocks and bonds:
- Very well then, listen: You know our house was insured for a good deal of money — fifteen thousand dollars. (Gabrielle Emile)
- Euro-area finance chiefs meeting tonight also will discuss using the European Financial Stability Facility to insure bonds of troubled governments. (Business Week)
- Remarkably, younger and healthier individuals in other industrialized countries have long accepted the mandate to be insured in return for community-rated premiums and guaranteed issue. (New York Times)
Sometimes people say ensure or insure when they really mean assure, to remove doubt. Bryan Garner points out in Garner's Modern American Usage that the usage has become “ubiquitous.” Harrumph! We assure you that there is a difference, and by reading this you've ensured that you know your homonyms, but alas we can't insure you. It's just not that kind of party.
Assure, Ensure, Insure
These three English words all mean “to make sure or certain” and are commonly confused, even by native speakers. This lesson will ensure that you understand the difference.
Assure most commonly means “to remove doubt about, to guarantee, to set one’s mind at rest.” It is a verbal statement of certainty. Assure is the only one of these three verbs that can be used with a person as the direct object.
I assure you that we will be on time.
He assured us that there were no delays.
- Assure can also mean ensure (see below).
- In British English, assurance is used as a synonym for a particular type of insurance (see below).
Ensure means “to make sure or certain” and must be followed by a direct object. Ensure indicates the action of guaranteeing, as opposed to the spoken guarantee indicated by assure.
Winning the lottery ensured our happiness.
His loyalty will ensure your safety.
Insure refers to the provision of insurance: coverage against a specified loss.
My new car is not yet insured.
Our house was insured when the storm hit.
In British English, assure is used instead of insure when referring to insurance that is guaranteed to be paid (e.g., life insurance, because you are definitely going to die at some point), as opposed to car or fire insurance (which cover you against a loss that may or may not occur).
Insure can also mean ensure – to make sure of.
The Bottom Line
Assure, ensure, and insure can all mean “to make sure or certain of”:
Hard work will assure/ensure/insure your success.
In my opinion, however, ensure is the only word that should be used here.
Beyond that meaning, assure also indicates a verbal guarantee, and insure refers to the action of guaranteeing coverage in the case of loss.