Recommended level: Upper intermediate
"Assure" means to inform someone positively of something, or to promise something with a high degree of certainty (whether that certainty is deserved or not).
Example: "I can assure you there won't be any problems during the presentation."
"Reassure" means to restore someone's confidence in something, and to reduce someone's stress, fear, uncertainty, or worry about a situation.
Example: "I want to reassure you that we are still interested in doing business with you."
The two words are closely linked, with "reassure" also meaning "to assure again."
Example: "They assured me a month ago that they wouldn't change their prices, and
they reassured me of the same thing this week."
"Assure" and "reassure" are a brother and sister vocabulary duo. Both words are about increasing a listener's confidence, and reducing their worries about a situation. When used in this way, the main difference is the type of confidence involved, and the timing of when we use one word or the other.
Assure: to make sure of something
Let's start with a very specific use of "assure." Because this verb is concerned with increasing a listener's confidence in something, it is also concerned with convincing yourself or someone else of something, or making certain that something is true. For instance: "I made a small cut in the hamburger patty to assure myself that the meat was properly cooked." As you can see, verification and testing one's certainty can be an important part of this usage. "Make sure" or "make certain" are accurate synonyms in this case.
What if we use "reassure" in this sentence instead? Does it change the meaning? Let's take a look.
"I made a small cut in the hamburger patty to reassure myself that the meat was properly cooked."
There is a stronger emotional element with the word "reassure" in this case. While you want to confirm and verify things with evidence when you use "assure," you want to do the same thing with "reassure" because you are perhaps slightly worried that the meat might not be cooked. Think of it like this:
Assure: "I think the meat should be properly cooked by now. To make sure of this, I will make a small cut in the hamburger patty."
Reassure: "I think the meat should be properly cooked by now, but I'm a little worried it might not be. To verify if the meat is cooked or not, and to remove my doubt about the situation, I will make a small cut in the hamburger patty."
In the case of "reassure" here, the person who cuts the meat will probably breathe a sigh of relief when they see it is properly cooked. In the case of "assure," the person might just nod, satisfied that their assessment of the situation proved to be correct.
Here are some other examples that refer to making sure or making certain of something:
"To assure her boss that the job would be done properly, Celeste assigned it to her most trusted team member."
"I watched the movie twice to assure myself that I had understood it properly the first time."
"How can I assure you that everything is running on schedule?"
In this case, always remember to add an object after the verb.
Practice: Complete the sentence: "To assure myself that my roommate had actually cleaned the apartment, I..."
Assure: to inform someone positively or to promise with a high degree of certainty
This is the most common uses of "assure." You have probably heard it before in sentences such as these:
"I can assure you there is nothing wrong with the car."
"I want to assure you that everything is proceeding as planned."
"The company assured me this wouldn't happen again."
"Jim assures me he can find a better price."
"I assure you that Deborah would never hurt anyone on purpose. It must have been an accident."
Confidence is an important part of this usage. You typically assure someone of something if you are almost certain of the truth or outcome of it. We usually have strong evidence or personal opinions when we use assure in this way. As mentioned, the goal of using "assure" like this is to instill confidence in our listener by informing them positively of something.
Practice: Complete the sentence: "I can assure you that..."
Reassure: to restore confidence and remove worry, fear, etc.
If someone is afraid or worried about a situation, they might need to be reassured that things will be okay. This is quite common for children. For example, if your son gets nervous before playing an instrument in front of other people because he's not confident in his ability, you might say, "Hey, it's okay. Remember, you've practiced a lot, and I think you sound great. You've done public speaking before, and this is similar to that. You're going to be just fine, okay?" In this case, you reassured your son that he's capable of doing this: you have removed his fear and restored his confidence.
Here are a few more examples:
"I don't think Jamie needs to be criticized for her work right now. Her confidence is pretty low. I think she needs to be reassured that she has belongs on this team and that she's capable of doing her job well."
"I can reassure you only so many times. At some point, you need to start believing in yourself."
"Sometimes, people just need to be reassured that they're loved no matter what."
"Thanks for taking the time to just sit and talk with me yesterday. My confidence has been pretty low, and it's nice to be reassured of your own value by someone who really knows you, you know?"
"I want to reassure you that I know you can do this."
Practice: Have you ever felt down (meaning, sad) and needed to be reassured by someone?
Reassure: to assure again
Perhaps you know that the prefix "re" means "again." With this knowledge, we can see that "reassure" can mean "to assure again." In the hamburger example near the top of this post, it's also possible that the person who checked the meat had already checked it once and saw that it was cooked, but they decided to check it again a couple of minutes later. This of course is unnecessary, but if you have ever been in a nervous state, it's a situation you can probably relate to.
You might need to reassure someone, or assure them again, because something has happened to make them lose confidence in your original promise. Note the following examples:
"You promised me last month that this project would be finished by October 10th."
"Yes, and I want to reassure you that we are still on schedule."
"They reassured me twice that they would remove the extra charge from my phone bill, but it has been three months now, and the extra charge is still on my account."
"You assured me that Harry wouldn't cause any more problems in your department, so why have I been hearing gossip that he's not doing his work properly?"
"I can reassure you that his work has been of high quality, and that the gossip is not true."
In all of these cases, the person using "reassure" is saying "I promise you again" or "I want to restore your confidence or certainty in my original words." Sometimes, we just need to hear a person say "Hey, remember what I told you and promised you before? It's still true, so you do not have to worry."
Practice: Imagine that your boss is worried about the quality of a work project that you are responsible for. Reassure your boss that the project is proceeding as originally promised.
What about "reassured" and "reassuring"?
In addition to being used as a verb, "reassure" also has two common adjective forms: "reassured" and "reassuring." It someone feels reassured, they feel less worried about something because of the words of a friend, family member, colleague, etc. In this case, you can say that a person's words are "reassuring." Let's look at some examples:
"Reginald is getting better. He only made 7 mistakes this week!"
"That's not very reassuring." (Meaning, that doesn't fill me with confidence and isn't good supporting evidence for your claim.)
"How did your grandmother react when you told her you were quitting school?"
"I think she felt reassured when I explained that I had an actual plan, and that I wasn't quitting for nothing."
"The team played really well last night."
"Yeah, their performance was very reassuring. I was worried when they lost last week."
As you can see, if something restores your confidence or alleviates your fears or worries, it reassures you; it is reassuring; it makes you feel reassured. I hope this explanation is reassuring!
Practice: Complete the sentence: "It's reassuring to see..."
Well, that's it for today. I hope you found this blog post useful. I can assure you that if you review it more than once, you'll have a better understanding of these useful words. And if you ever feel like studying English is incredibly difficult, I want to reassure you that it does get better over time. Like any other skill, it requires commitment and regular practice. You can do it!
Until next time, thanks for studying with me, and good luck with the next step in your journey.