3 easily confused English verbs

A lesson I was teaching earlier this week included the verb “ensure,” and when students started asking about other, similar sounding verbs, I realized it makes for a great blog lesson post!

Read on for definitions, example sentences, and mp3s for pronunciation of three easily confused English verbs: assure, insure, and ensure.

(Listen to my pronunciation of “assure” above!)

One of the easiest ways to determine if you need to use “assure” is looking at the structure of the sentence you’re producing.

Assure means that you are telling someone something with certainty, or to make a promise, as in:

I assure you, I never lied to you.

He assured her that he would be on time to the meeting.

The children assured their mother they would clean their rooms.

A sentence using “assure” will generally always be structured as
(pro)noun + assure + (pro)noun + [noun phrase].

These last two words are where things get tricky.

Many sources will tell you that “insure” and “ensure” are nearly interchangeable.

One very specific use for “insure” is when it is related to an arrangement for money or compensation in the event of an accident, illness, or injury. This meaning is connected to the noun “insurance,” as in “car insurance” and “health insurance.”

In general, you could say that “insure” means to protect someone or something against something happening, as in:

I insured my car for a lot of money, because it is new.

To insure against a possible break-in, they installed an alarm system.

She is lucky that she insured her jewelry before it was stolen.

Lastly, “ensure” is to make something certain (or make sure that it is…sure!), as in:

Please ensure that you have all your belongings with you before you leave.

Students must ensure that they keep an accurate record of due dates.

Practicing every day will ensure success.

The main different to note between “assure” and “ensure” is that someone assures someone of something, while someone ensures something of happening.


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