begin, commence, start

Begin is the more general term:

  • Until I can start my car, I cannot begin to finish my chores.
  • The meeting will begin at 8:30 exactly.
  • My course in Canadian history begins (or starts) on Tuesday, May 15.
  • Some people say the world began with a big bang.
  • Do not begin writing until the bell rings.

Commence is more formal than begin or start:

  • The ceremony will commence promptly at 11 a.m.

Start usually applies to physical motion:

  • Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines!

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