Comenzar Conjugation: Command & Subjunctive

Instructor: Elena Sacramento Lechado

Elena teaches Spanish as a foreign language and has a PhD in linguistics.

This lesson covers the Spanish verb ''comenzar'', which means 'to start' or 'to begin'. We will learn how to use it context, giving orders or making suggestions, i.e. in the imperative, or expressing wishes in the subjunctive.

Comencemos

¡Comencemos! (Let's begin!) You might hear this expression very often in many different contexts - for example, from a teacher before getting started with a lesson, or from a TV host at the beginning of a show. The Spanish verb comenzar means 'to begin' or 'to start' and it is used in a variety of situations.

Using Comenzar in Context

The verb comenzar ('to start/begin') can be used on its own when giving a command or making a suggestion in a shared context. For example, a coach asking the team to start training could say: ¡Comenzad, chicas! ('You girls start!')

However, we will normally specify an object or which activity we are beginning to do. If we are referring to a period of time or activity that begins, we will just use the structure comenzar + noun/phrase: comenzar el verano ('to begin the summer'), comenzar las clases de italiano ('to begin Italian lessons').

If, on the other hand, we are referring to an action or verb, we will use the structure comenzar + a + infinitive: comenzar a estudiar ('to start studying'), comenzar a llover ('to start raining').

Comenzar a llover = To start raining
rain

Imperative of Comenzar

We will use the imperative when giving a direct order or command. Also, we can use the first person plural (nosotros) to make suggestions.

Take a look at the imperative forms and their spelling.

VERB: comenzar (koh-mehn-SAHR) - to start/begin

Subject Pronouns Comenzar: Imperative Pronunciation Translation
comienza koh-MYEHN-sah (you) start/begin
usted comience koh-MYEHN-seh (you formal) start/begin
nosotros/as comencemos koh-mehn-SEH-mohs (we) let's start/begin
vosotros/as comenzad koh-mehn-SAHD (you all) start/begin
ustedes comiencen koh-MYEHN-sehn (you all) formal start/begin

Notice that, whereas the second person (in both singular and plural) keeps the z from the infinitive, for the rest of the subject pronouns, z changes into c. This is because for all verbs ending in -zar, the z changes into c before e.

Let's see how to use these forms in context.

Example Conversation

Dana has woken up feeling great. She loves Saturdays because she can enjoy her me-time and stroll around the city.

On her way to the park, she comes across this sign:


Translation: Start your day with our excellent coffee
coffee


She thinks that is a good idea, so she buys a coffee and phones her friend, Natalia, who says:

Hay clases de baile cada miércoles en el centro cultural. ('There are dance classes every Wednesday at the cultural center'.) ¿Te apuntas? ('Will you join us?')

Dana: Sí, claro. ('Yes, sure'.) Comencemos la próxima semana. ('Let's start next week'.) ¿Almuerzas con María y conmigo hoy? ('Are you having lunch with María and I today?')

Natalia: Sí, pero quizás me retraso. ('Yes, but I might be late'.) Comenzad a comer sin mí si no he llegado antes de las 2. ('You start eating without me if I haven't arrived by 2pm'.)

Subjunctive of Comenzar

We use the subjunctive in order to express doubts, uncertainty and wishes or give indirect orders as well. Notice that, again, z changes into c-, since in all subjunctive forms the main ending vowel is e.

VERB: comenzar (koh-mehn-SAHR) - to start/begin

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