Insure vs. Ensure vs. Assure: What to Watch for Wednesday #5

What to Watch for Wednesday Tip of the Week: Insure vs Ensure vs Assure

First off, apologies for the brief and unannounced hiatus. I’ve been battling burnout lately, and of course that’s had a big impact on my blogging. I’m working on getting my head back on straight, so hopefully I can stick to my schedule from here on out.

Welcome to another edition of What to Watch for Wednesday, a weekly feature where I go over common issues I see when I’m proofreading or wandering through the wilds of the internet. These may be usage errors, common grammar issues, common spelling issues, or anything else along those lines. If you have an issue that you’d like to see highlighted and explained, drop me a line!

Welcome to another edition of What to Watch for Wednesday, a weekly feature where I go over common issues I see when I’m proofreading or wandering through the wilds of the internet. These may be usage errors, common grammar issues, common spelling issues, or anything else along those lines. If you have an issue that you’d like to see highlighted and explained, drop me a line!

“I insure you, Mr. Example Guy,” Dr. Man said, “that I am an actual doctor. Your health assurance takes me, your health has improved quite a bit lately…Bobzo, I ensure you, I didn’t get my license out of a box of Cracker Jacks.”

(Note from the author: It was actually in a box of Apple Jacks.)

Apart from Dr. Man’s questionable credentials, what’s wrong with this paragraph? Is there anything wrong with it?

But of course.

One involves providing compensation. One is a guarantee. One is giving the reader or listener confidence in something. Today, we’re going to sort out which one is which. Grab your snorkeling gear and your notebooks, because we’re about to dive right on in! ᕕ( ᐛ )ᕗ


Insure. Ensure. Assure. Three words. Three verbs. Three verbs that intermingle with each other in the definition department. Oy. Look at how close these definitions (courtesy of Wiktionary) are:

  • Insure: To provide for compensation if some specified risk occurs…3. (chiefly US, transitive, dated) Alternative spelling of ensure; to make sure or certain of; guarantee.
  • Ensure: To make a pledge to (someone); to promise, guarantee (someone of something); to assure.
  • Assure: To make sure and secure; ensure…To give (someone) confidence in the trustworthiness of (something).

Yeah, that weary, half-wheezy laugh you just heard? That was me.

Insure vs. Ensure vs. Assure

Little can be straightforward in this hodgepodge of a language, can it? You want to know when to use insure, when to use ensure, and when to use assure, and you come out with similar definitions and a whole bunch of stuff saying that they’re almost, but not quite, interchangeable. Ye gods. This language, I swear.

But! Let’s wipe away the murk and muck and try to clear things up some more.

How do you use them correctly?

Insure

I’m sure you’re familiar with insurance—car insurance, home insurance, health insurance, and the like. Insure is the verb that goes with it. If you insure something, you’re getting it covered with an insurance policy.

Ensure

We’re not talking about the nutritional beverage that I sometimes grab on the days when me brain no worky gud. Well, I suppose we could be, but no, not right now. To ensure something is to guarantee it.

Assure

I’m sure you’ve heard the word “reassure,” right? It’s usually used when you’re comforting someone and removing their doubts. That’s what assure means: to remove doubts.

And here are some examples:

“I assure you, Mr. Example Guy,” Dr. Man said, “that I am an actual doctor. Your health insurance takes me, your health has improved quite a bit lately…Bobzo, I assure you, I didn’t get my license out of a box of Cracker Jacks.”

Insure

  • Bobzo tried to insure his yarn collection for a pretty penny, but, sadly, he was told it wasn’t worth all that much.
  • Meanwhile, Frank couldn’t find a single health insurance company that would insure vampires. He was like Schrodinger’s Cryptid: The companies all insisted that vampires didn’t exist, but they all seemed to refuse to insure one because vampires were supposedly immortal and didn’t have health problems. What the hell? Tell that to the misaimed stake wound in his gut that still hadn’t gone away after a year.
  • Ozbob Man, King of the Werewolves, had no trouble at all with getting someone to insure his pack. Lucky bastard.

Ensure

  • Even though he swore up and down that he didn’t like Frank, Frank’s cold skin tugged at the strings of Bobzo’s heart. He needed to ensure that Frank would stay warm when fall and winter rolled around. Maybe a few scarves would do the trick.
  • Ozbob wanted to ensure that the werewolves would remain the ruling species in the US. He had the money to do it, and the power. There was just this little vampire problem in New York…
  • A garlic bomb over Manhattan would ensure that most of the ruling vampires in the US would be wiped out of existence.

Assure

  • For some reason, Bobzo felt the need to assure Frank that he looked good wrapped up in the wonky peach scarf. Frank did! The softly colored wool made him look more alive.
  • The rouge-colored scarf was pretty badly made, full of holes where Bobzo dropped stitches, uneven tension, and the like, but Frank was quick to assure him that he loved it.
  • I, the author, assure you that Frank is aware of the coming war with the werewolves.

How can you remember it?

  • Insurance is something you probably hear about all the time, at least in the States. Remember, insure goes with insurance.
  • For ensure, think about the meal replacement beverage I mentioned. Ensure ensures that people who have trouble eating, for whatever reason, get at least some nutrition.
  • For assure, I’m gonna get a little profane for a second: you would be an ass if you didn’t assure your partner that they look great in that new outfit…or that your crush did a great job with that wonky peach scarf.

Insure, Ensure, Assure

The English language would be nothing without its quirks, would it? Insure, ensure, and assure. Three words with similar pronunciations and similar meanings, but not quite the same. With my pointers above as insure-ance 😉 I hope that I have assured you that you can use these words properly to ensure that your writing and conversations make sense.


Are insure, ensure, and assure a problem for you? How do you keep up with the difference? Want to try using them in a few sentences yourself? Give it a shot in the comments below!

And, hey, are there any words, grammar rules, punctuation problems, or other such things that always give you trouble? Hit me up, and maybe I’ll cover them.

I hope Bobzo, Frank, and I have helped you this week. Please, do come back next Wednesday for another edition of What to Watch for Wednesday. And if you need some extra help from a sharp-eyed word nerd, hit me up for a free sample edit or hire me to proofread for you.

See you next time!

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