English Vocabulary – Begin or Start?

Goo day to you all,

Let’s get started!

Let’s begin!

Do you know when we use “begin” and when we use “start”?

Begin or Start?

Most of the time, these two words can be used interchangeably. They denote coming into being, a first step, a first action.

However, there are situations where one is preferred over the other: we usually use “start”to refer to an activity; it implies that something goes from inaction to action. It is also a little more informal.

“Begin” is often used for more official proceedings.

Let’s look at some examples:

“Let us begin this meeting with a presentation by the director of finance”

In this example, we could also use “start” but because it is a more formal environment, “begin” works a little better.

“Oh no! My car won’t start again..”

When we are talking about machines and making them work, we always use “start”. You cannot “begin” your washing machine, your car, the lawnmower, etc.

Quick tip: if you are using the continuous tenses with the verbs “to start” or “to begin”, followed by another verb, it is better if you use the infinitive forms and not the gerund.

For example: 

“It is beginning to snow” (not “snowing”, although it is also correct, it does not sound very good with the double -ing).

Other synonyms

Other verbs that have a similar meaning to “begin” or “start” are: “commence” and “initiate”. These two verbs are more formal. “Commence” usually stresses the beginning of a formal event and “initiate” is used to describe the first steps in a process.

For example: 

“The president commenced the ceremony”

“Susan initiated the lawsuit against her boss”

Did you enjoy this grammar lesson? TWEET IT OUT:  I reviewed when to use start and begin with @abaenglish on their blog #esl


  1. You are the leaders of best understanding of English teaching I think ,just keep on .

  2. Hi, nice tip, but I have a question…I’ve been learned, that after some verbs, the following verb has to be in “ing” form and “start” is one of them…..Thanks….

    • Hi Alberto,

      The verb “start” can go with complement clauses of either infinitive or gerund forms. However, when we use “start” in the gerund form and then follow it with another verb in -ing it sounds wrong, so we try to avoid it.

      For example: “I started doing my English homework” is a great use of “start + -ing”, as is “I am starting to do my English homework”. But “I am starting doing my English homework” sounds incorrect because of its double use of -ing. It is not grammatically incorrect but we would never use this combination in English because of how it sounds.

      Hope that helped!

  3. Hello teacher, goodnight really enjoyed learning how to use these verbs , Start and Begin: Thank You!

  4. Ricardo Echeverría Vidal

    It has been very clear to me to understand when and how to use the verbs to begin and to start.-
    Also I understood that it isn`t usual to use the gerund form of to start followed with another verb
    in “ing”, because it sounds wrong.-

  5. Ricardo Echeverría Vidal

    It is the first time I have taken knowledge of this site and I find it very interesting to learn English language.- I should like to know how to continue, because I want to write and to speak English.
    I am waiting your instructions.

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