Begin or Start?

We can use the verbs begin and start to mean the same thing but begin is more formal than start. Begin is an irregular verb. Its past simple form is began and its -ed form is begun.

Begin and Start

Begin and start can both be used with the same meaning.

  • I began/started teaching when I was 24.
  • If Sheila doesn’t come soon, let’s begin/start without her.

We generally prefer begin when we are using a more formal style.


  • We will begin the meeting with a message from the President.
  • Damn! It’s starting to rain.

Cases where begin is not possible

Start (but not begin) is used to mean:
1. ‘start a journey’

  • I think we ought to start at six, while the roads are empty.

2.  ‘start working’ (for machines)

  • The car won’t start.

3. ‘make something start’

  • How do you start the washing machine?
  • The President’s wife fired the gun to start the race

4. talk about creating a new business:

  • She started a new restaurant and it’s been going really well.

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