ensure vs. insure

What is the difference between ensure and insure?

It can be especially tricky to distinguish between the verbs ensure and insure due to their similarity in both pronunciation and meaning.
The two words have very similar pronunciations: /ɛnˈʃʊər/ and /ɪnˈʃʊər/, respectively. However, both tend to have the stress on their first vowel reduced in casual speech, resulting in the same pronunciation: /ənˈʃʊər/.
In addition to their pronunciations, the meanings of these two words also overlap. The most common definition of ensure is “to guarantee, secure, or make certain,” as in:
  • “The massive popularity of their new product has ensured the company’s survival for the foreseeable future.”
  • “Our aim is to ensure that you have the most pleasant stay possible.”
The most common definition of insure is “to protect or guarantee against damage, harm, loss, theft, etc.,” or “to issue (someone) with an insurance policy.” For example:
  • “Legally, you must insure your car before you can drive it.”
  • “The insurance company refused to insure me again after the latest accident.”
  • “We recommend arriving early to insure against missing out on a spot in the theater.”
In American English, though, insure is commonly used to mean the same thing as ensure, so it is generally accepted that the following sentences would be correct in American English writing:
While you will probably be fine using insure in either instance if you are in the United States, it is always correct to use ensure to mean “make certain” and insure to mean “protect against harm or damage.”
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