commence, begin, start
1. Commence is a more formal Latinate word for begin or start. Fowler's advice (1926) was to use begin and its derivatives except when these seem incongruous (which is in fact rare); occasions when commence is more appropriate include official announcements, statements of historical importance, and suchlike. It is therefore a sound rule to use begin in all ordinary contexts unless start is customary (e.g. The engine started at once / They usually start work at 9.30 / The game started on time), and to reserve commence for more formal occasions, such as the law (to commence an action), warfare (Hostilities commenced on 4 August), and the domain of ceremonial (The procession will commence at 2 p.m.).
2. Constructions available to commence are more limited than to begin; in particular begin can more readily be followed by a to-infinitive, whereas a verbal noun is now more natural after commence: They began to eat or They began eating but They commenced eating. However, commence + to will be found in older writing. Definitely to be avoided is a mixed style of to + verbal noun:

• ☒ Then he commenced to coming by our place —M. Golden, 1989.

Modern English usage. 2014.

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  • commence — I verb arise, auspicate, begin, bring, broach, come into existence, come into the world, embark on, engage in, enter upon, inaugurate, incept, incipere, initiate, install, institute, introduce, launch, lay the foundations, make one s debut, open …   Law dictionary

  • commencé — commencé, ée (ko man sé, sée) part. passé. 1°   Une construction commencée. L année étant commencée. •   Le coeur qui n était encore que commencé à former, DESC. Foetus, 4. •   Serons nous fort contents d une pénitence commencée à l agonie, qui n …   Dictionnaire de la Langue Française d'Émile Littré

  • Commence — Com*mence (k[o^]m*m[e^]ns ), v. i. [imp. & p. p. {Commenced} (k[o^]m*m[e^]nst ); p. pr. & vb. n. {Commencing}.] [F. commencer, OF. comencier, fr. L. com + initiare to begin. See {Initiate}.] 1. To have a beginning or origin; to originate; to… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Commence — Com*mence , v. t. To enter upon; to begin; to perform the first act of. [1913 Webster] Many a wooer doth commence his suit. Shak. [1913 Webster] Note: It is the practice of good writers to use the verbal noun (instead of the infinitive with to)… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • commence — c.1300, from O.Fr. comencier to begin, start (10c., Mod.Fr. commencer), from V.L. *cominitiare, originally to initiate as priest, consecrate, from L. com together (see COM (Cf. com )) + initiare to initiate, from initium (see INITIAL (Cf …   Etymology dictionary

  • commence — *begin, start, initiate, inaugurate Analogous words: institute, *found, organize, establish Contrasted words: finish, complete, conclude, terminate, end, *close …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • commence — [v] start action arise, begin, come into being, come into existence, embark on, enter upon, get cracking*, get going, get one’s feet wet*, get show on road*, hit the ground running*, inaugurate, initiate, jump into, kick off*, launch, lead off,… …   New thesaurus

  • commencé — Commencé, [commenc]ée. part. Il a la mesme signification que son verbe …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie française

  • commence — ► VERB ▪ begin. ORIGIN Old French commencier, from Latin initiare begin …   English terms dictionary

  • commence — [kə mens′] vi., vt. commenced, commencing [ME commencen < OFr comencier < VL * cominitiare, orig., to initiate as priest, consecrate < L com , together + initiare, to INITIATE] to begin; start; originate SYN. BEGIN commencer n …   English World dictionary

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