I am currently in highschool Spanish III, so I am rather ignorant of the language as a whole. I learned that "comenzar" means, roughly, "to begin", and "empezar" means, roughly, "to start". In English there is not much of a difference between those two translations, so I am wondering if there is any specific explanation for what context "comenzar" is used in and what context "empezar" is used in (or if they are used purely interchangeably). Thank you.

Yo en espanol tres en mi escuela, y yo no hablo mucho espanol. Yo aprendo "comenzar" es "to begin" en ingles y "empezar" es "to start". En ingles no mucho diferencia en los verbos. Yo quiero conocer la diferencia a "comenzar" y "empezar". Es los verbos mismo? Gracias, y disculpame para mi mal espanol.

  • It is a duplicate, and I should've known to check. What should I do? Move my answer over to the other question?
    – pablodf76
    Oct 13, 2018 at 23:16
  • 1
    I agree with Ukemi. The answer provided here adds more value than the ones in the other question. The Ngrams are interesting, but they don't provide a real answer just by themselves. Also, the accepted answer in that post is a -9 score question (11 downvotes, 2 upvotes). If anything, I would move any interesting ngrams to this question. I would VTC the other and Vote to keep this open, but as a mod my votes are binding, so I'm going to wait for the community to agree on a course of action.
    – Diego
    Oct 15, 2018 at 13:27

1 Answer 1


There is no difference whatsoever in meaning or grammar between empezar and comenzar. They are totally interchangeable.

If you look around for more data on this, you'll find that this very same question is found everywhere in language learning forums and the like, and even in language forums for Spanish native speakers. Some point out a few minimal differences: for example

  • It seems people don't ever use empezar in those parts of the United States that were formerly colonized by Spanish missionaries.
  • A video tutorial for Portuguese learners of Spanish comments that comenzar is seen as more formal or literary than empezar in e.g. Argentina.
  • A language website also says that in Spain comenzar is definitely bookish so they prefer to use empezar in speech.

In doubt, it might be wiser to try empezar. But the differences are so minimal and so dependent on context and dialect that you can discount them. If you're ever in the position to speak Spanish naturally with natives, you'll automatically begin using the verb they use.

  • Thank you for the thorough and clear answer.
    – auden
    Oct 14, 2018 at 1:40

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