What's the difference between commence and begin? Example Sentence: The Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, which has been held since 1985, ________ officially on 5th January each year. Should I write commences or begins in the blank?
There is almost no difference in meaning. Commence is a borrowing from French in the Middle English period, and is used for a more formal starting of something.
In most cases "begin" is the proper word to use, even in formal English, but in this case, describing the official and formal opening of a festival, "commence" would be very appropriate.