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Sunday, May 29, 2016

EwR Vocabulary - Word Comparison - Start versus Begin (Part II)

START versus BEGIN (Part II)  

This is Part II of two parts. The verb “begin” will be addressed in Part II of this article. Please refer to Part I in order to read about the verb “start”.

Now, let’s turn our attention to the verb “begin”. If the initiation of the action that you are identifying is done in a leisurely way, where time is unimportant, then use the verb “begin”. This kind of action exhibits a sense of expectancy or optimism that something is going to happen, but in a relaxed way. The action that commences is anticipated, and gives you the sense that it is promised to take place, but just not in a rushed way.

Here are some examples and practice questions for you to look at, so that you will understand how to use the verb “begin”.

Example:  Pets usually begin to get nervous and upset when you put them in an animal carrier in order to take them to the vet.

Explanation:  It’s almost guaranteed that a pet will do this under these circumstances.  There is no importance of time being conveyed here, it’s just a relaxed statement about what a person would probably anticipate in this situation.  There is a sense of optimism that pets react this way.

Practice:  Why do dogs begin to bark when strangers approach them? 
Example:  My first class at the university begins in the afternoon after lunch.

Explanation:  There is an expectation that my first class at the university will take place, but the exact time is unimportant.  This class is going to take place, without a doubt, but there is a relaxed feeling about expressing when it takes place.

Practice:  When does your first meeting of the week usually begin at work?

Example: My mother always begins to complain if I don’t call my aunt from time to time.

Explanation:  This is a habit that my mother always has with me, so I am pretty relaxed when she tells me this, since I expect that she will probably say this same thing to me, as usual.  This situation is almost always promised to take place whenever she thinks about her sister.

Practice:  Why do mothers begin to complain when their children don’t do something that they think their children should do? 
Example:  The bus driver began to complain to a passenger about something, so I looked out the window in order to distract myself.

Explanation:  This is a relaxed situation for me, since I’m not involved in this dispute.  Time isn’t important to me because I’m seated in the bus, and just waiting for my bus stop.  Riding the bus is an opportunity for me to spend some leisure time doing whatever I want to do.  If the driver complains to a passenger, then I expect that a possible dispute will take place.  This discussion isn’t really important to me, so the time that it occupies isn’t either.

Practice:  If someone begins a heated argument with another person in public, what do you usually do? 
Example:  My boss began to yell at the secretary because she forgot to call an important client for him.

Explanation:  This happens a lot between my boss and his secretary, so I anticipate that it will happen again soon.  There is a sense of relaxation on my part because I don’t have to participate actively in this conversation.  Time is unimportant here, since it isn’t going to change this habit that my boss has with his secretary.  He’s always complaining about something to her.

Practice:  What do you do if your boss begins to behave in a strange way for you?

In summary, whenever you want to talk about an action that is commencing, you have to decide if the action has a sense of urgency, or not, where time is important.  If time is important, then use the verb “start”.  If time is not important, and the sense of the action is relaxed and not in a hurry, then use the verb “begin”.

Remember the two sentences mentioned at the beginning of Part I of this article: “I have started to learn how to play the piano”, and “I have begun to learn how to play the piano”.  Which one suggests that time is probably important?  Which one of these two statements has a sense of urgency?  Now the answer to these two questions is simple.  The first statement which uses the verb “start” is correct.  If I have started to learn how to play the piano, then I am referring to the importance of timing and determination needed in order to acquire the skills necessary to play a piano.  Maybe I have thought about learning how to play a piano for a long time, and “now” is the moment in order to achieve my goal.  The sudden urge to “start” now is evident here.  It is essential that I “start” now, maybe because I want to perform in front of an audience, or maybe because I need to learn this skill for a class.

If I have begun to learn how to play the piano, then I am optimistic about doing so, but I am not necessarily in a hurry. The idea is more like that of a hobby, and there is no feeling of urgency in order to carry out this hobby.  It’s possible, but not necessary, that I might demonstrate my musical talent by playing the piano for someone someday.  This is a very carefree notion here in this example.

In conclusion, the main differences between the two verbs “start” and “begin” have to do with timing of commencing some action.  The logic behind using the verb “start” is that the initiated action is spontaneous, necessary and well-organized.  On the other hand, the verb “begin” implies a more peaceful, leisurely and friendly feeling behind its action.


If you want to check your understanding of the words “start” and “begin”, then take a look at the following exercises.  Choose the correct form of either the verb “start” or “begin”.

1.     My brother ______ yelling at me because I didn’t tell our parents that he was going to the store with their car.

         (a) started        (b) began             (c) begun              (d) starts

2.      My parents always ______ arguing whenever my sister comes home after midnight.

         (a) begin          (b) began             (c) started              (d) start

3.     The mother ______ yelling at her daughter because she had failed to call her and tell her where she went after school.

         (a) started        (b) began             (c) begun              (d) starts

4.      It is true that cars hardly ever ______ up the first time in the morning when the weather is cold outside.

         (a) start             (b) begun            (c) started              (d) begin

5.      I ______ reading a very long book yesterday, but I have lots of time in order to finish reading it.

         (a) began         (b) start                 (c) started              (d) begin

6.     The teacher would like you to ______ off the debate, since you have experience giving debates.

         (a) start             (b) begin              (c) begins              (d) starts

Answers:  The answer to each question (numbers 1-6 above) is letter (a).

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