Here’s a problem I’ve encountered a lot: the confusion of ensure vs. insure.

But wait, those two words are the same, right? Well . . . kind of, but not exactly.

When to Use Ensure vs InsurePin

Let’s un-muddle them, shall we?

The Connection Between Ensure and Insure

Every time I hear the word “ensure,” I think of the high-protein flavored beverage that I will never drink.

But we’re going to use this ingestible product to help you remember how to use ensure. Win-win (kind of).

Both “insure” and “ensure” are verbs. They both derive from the same word meaning “to make sure.”

We are off to a running start in the confusion race. But this is really a pretty simple conflict to resolve.

What does Ensure mean?

For example:

Carrie knew that drinking a gallon of milk in an hour would ensure that Simon would experience intense gastrointestinal discomfort, but she didn’t make any moves to prevent his performance.

Everyone here familiar with the gallon challenge? More importantly, everyone familiar with the inevitable results of a gallon challenge? Good. Then you all know how this story ends.

Participating in the gallon challenge ensures that Simon will not be doing well in an hour or less.

What does Insure mean?

In this case, achieving the desired outcome will require some work; it’s not an easy guarantee. You often insure against something.

It’s most commonly used in the context of insurance (health, homeowner’s, car, etc.). But it still has uses outside of the realm of policies and deductibles:

Unbeknownst to Carrie, Simon had two bottles of Pepto-Bismol in his pocket, hoping that they would insure against trouble in his digestive tract.

In this case, Simon has brought some medicinal aids in order to protect his digestive system from undesirable effects. Make sense? Cool.

Insure Against Grammar Mishaps

English grammar can be tricky. But we’ll keep posting articles like this to ensure you understand all its ins and outs. Keep reading and practicing in the comments to insure against unfortunate errors in your writing!

Need more grammar help? My favorite tool that helps find grammar problems, (ensuring that my grammar is correct) and even generates reports (to insure there aren’t any mistakes) is ProWritingAid. Works with Word, Scrivener, Google Docs, and web browsers. Also, be sure to use my coupon code to get 25 percent off: WritePractice25

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What sets of similar words trip you up? Let us know in the comments!


Take fifteen minutes to write about Simon’s decision to partake in the gallon challenge. How successful was his insurance attempt? Has he really ensured his digestive demise?

Post in the comments so we can be just as grossed out as you are. Be sure to leave feedback on your fellow writers’ pieces!

Liz Bureman has a more-than-healthy interest in proper grammatical structure, accurate spelling, and the underappreciated semicolon. When she's not diagramming sentences and reading blogs about how terribly written the Twilight series is, she edits for the Write Practice, causes trouble in Denver, and plays guitar very slowly and poorly. You can follow her on Twitter (@epbure), where she tweets more about music of the mid-90s than writing.

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