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What is the difference between empezar and comenzar? Is one more formal than the other?

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4 Answers 4

up vote -4 down vote accepted

Empezar, as radpin explained is related to events. Like the beginning of history or the beginning of a work project. Comenzar is more personalized towards a subject. Though they mean the same, we spanish speakers tend to use each in those contexts.

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Comenzar un proyecto is absolutely valid. Why do you state the contrary on your answer? –  c.p. Dec 28 '13 at 22:52
I am basica lly stating the most used, not the valid c.p. –  Quintrala Dec 30 '13 at 5:23
The point is that, what your are writing is false: you don't say empezar un proyecto more often than comenzar un proyecto as you stated. –  c.p. Dec 31 '13 at 16:12

Absolutely interchangeable as radpin states in his answer. I agree. However, I'd add that empezar is a little more common than comenzar. Actually Ngrams says in written Spanish, in the last 60 years, the frequency of use has been reversed. That is

enter image description here

And comenzar is slightly more formal. But I have no other sources than native speaker's gut.

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An existing answer, sadly the accepted one, has stated that empezar is more widely used than comenzar for things like "a project". That just doesn't make senseenter image description here

My conclusion is not that some is used more than the other. The difference is not significant enough as for being considered as a definitive answer. That's my point.

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I use them interchangeably, but if I had to distinguish I'd say that comenzar is normally a group or event, and empezar is normally a third person.

That being said, ?puedo comenzar? is perfectly acceptable so they really are pretty interchangeable.

I speak Mexican Spanish as a caveat.

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