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

  • 4
    DerPolygott33 I'd suggest that you accept @c.p. as an answer instead of Quintrala's since the votes and comments support that one as a more precise and documented answer. Answers from us native speakers are good as reference, but a better answer is one supported by references and research.
    – DGaleano
    Nov 17, 2015 at 16:23
  • 3
    I uphold @DGaleano 's request. Quintrala's answer is confusing and false.
    – fedorqui
    Mar 13, 2018 at 10:46

6 Answers 6

  • Empezar, as Eric 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.

  • 1
    Comenzar un proyecto is absolutely valid. Why do you state the contrary on your answer?
    – c.p.
    Dec 28, 2013 at 22:52
  • I am basica lly stating the most used, not the valid c.p.
    – Quintrala
    Dec 30, 2013 at 5:23
  • 3
    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, 2013 at 16:12

Absolutely interchangeable as Eric 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.


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.


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.


Spanish verbs "comenzar" and "empezar" are synonyms. There is no difference between them. Also "iniciar" means the same. Do not confuse trying to state differences where they do not exist.


I guess most of the times are interchangeable, but take care with set phrases like for example

no tengo ni para/por-dónde empezar

no empieces a hacer el tonto",

¡No empieces!

In these cases, using "comenzar" instead of "empezar" would sound sort of funny.

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