“Begin” and “start” are both verbs that are used to refer to the beginning of an action.

Begin” means “to start to happen or exist.”

Start” means “to begin doing something.” 

Overview
BeginStart
Gradual beginningSudden start
FormalInformal
VerbVerb, noun
Also means “to cause something to happen.”
Has more idioms or expressions

Differences

1.   Gradual or sudden.

Although they are interchangeable, “begin” implies something that’s more gradual and “start” is a bit more sudden or immediate.

Compare the following:

  • “I’d like to begin soon.”
  • “I’d like to start now.”
  • “The number of views began to increase when I uploaded more videos.”
  • “The number of views started to increase when I uploaded more videos.”
2.   Formal or informal.

“Begin” is considered more formal and polite and “start” is considered more informal.

Compare the following:

  • “When do we begin?”
  • “When do we start?”
  • “The meeting will begin at 9am.”
  • “The meeting will start at 9am.”
3. “Start is also a noun.

As a noun, it means “the beginning of something.”

  • “We’ll have to postpone the meetings to the start of next month.”
  • “This might be the start of an exciting partnership.”
4.   “Start” also means “to cause something to happen.”

This includes causing a machine to work or creating a business etc.

  • “I’ve been having trouble starting the car.”
    Not – “I’ve been having trouble beginning the car.”
  • “Things have been going well since we started the business.”
    Not – “Things have been going well since we began the business.”
  • Start a movement to change the world.”
    Not – “Begin a movement to change the world.”
    However – “A movement began to change the world.”
5.   There are more expressions/idioms with “start.
Begin:
  • “To begin with”
  • “Can’t even begin”
Start:
  • “From start to finish”
  • “For a start”
  • “Start out”
  • “Start over”
  • “Start something off”
  • “Start on something”
  • “Start something up”
  • “A fresh start”
  • “A head start”

Original post: 27 August 2020

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