Today, when looking up the definitions of the phrasal verb "take something up", I noticed that one of them was written like this: "to start or begin something such as a job." For the first time I realized that maybe "start" and "begin" don't exactly mean the same thing.

So the question is what is the difference between these two? And are there cases when they mean exactly the same thing?

  • It would be helpful if you added a few phrases where you think the meanings are the same or not or you can't tell. Otherwise its a vague question due to all the possibilities.
    – user3169
    Commented Jun 25, 2014 at 19:29
  • 1
    You can find the answer [here][1] in the friendly site . [1]: english.stackexchange.com/questions/21043/… Commented Jun 25, 2014 at 20:36

1 Answer 1


In a great many contexts, to start and to begin are effectively synonyms, but there are plenty of contexts where they aren't.

  1. You can only start your car (make the engine begin running). You can't begin the car.

  2. A loud noise can only make you start (be startled)

  3. You can start out on a journey (or just start, or begin, but not begin out on a journey)

  4. Idiomatic "Don't [you] start!" (just keep out of this argument!) doesn't work with begin.

I'm sure there are many other cases I haven't included. But the general rule is that where the meaning is to commence, the two words are interchangeable (though in some contexts one might be more likely than the other).


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