Comenzar Conjugation: Present Tense & Preterite

Instructor: Maria Elena Knolle Cano

Maria Elena has taught Spanish and German to learners of all levels in Europe, Asia and Australia and has a Master's degree in Cultural Studies and Communication.

Without the verb ''comenzar'' (to start, begin), there would be no beginnings in Spanish! Let's learn how to build the present tense as well as the preterite, a specific past tense, of ''comenzar''.

New Beginnings With Comenzar

Are you someone who likes to create New Year intentions every single year? If that's the case, keep reading, you will be thrilled to hear from someone with the same gusto for new beginnings!

If you are a more go with the flow fellow or girl, let yourself catch a glimpse of the motivación (motivation) and entusiasmo (enthusiasm) that goes hand in hand with being determined.

Present Tense

Let's see the conjugations of present tense comenzar (to start, begin):

Pronoun Verb Pronunciation Translation
Yo comienzo koh-MYAYN-thoh I start, begin
comienzas koh-MYAYN-thahs You start, begin
Él, ella, Usted comienza koh-MYAYN-thah He, she, you (formal) start, begin
Nosotros, nosotras comenzamos koh-mayn-THAH-mohs We (male, female) start, begin
Vosotros, vosotras comenzáis koh-mayn-THA-ees You (plural male, female)start, begin
Ellos, ellas, Ustedes comienzan koh-MYAYN-thahn They (male, female), you (plural formal) start, begin


Meet Paula Inicio (Paula Start)! Paula is not only adept at creating her own New Year's resolutions, she also does the same for her whole familia (family)!

Note: in Spanish the present tense is also used to talk about future endeavors.

Hola, soy Paula. ('Hello, I am Paula'). Aquí os presento los nuevos proyectos que mi familia y yo queremos comenzar en el nuevo año. ('I present to you the new projects that my family and I want to start in the new year'.)

En enero, comienzo a tomar clases de guitarra. ('In January, I start taking guitar lessons'.)

¿Y tú, querido lector? (And you, dear reader?) ¿Comienzas algún proyecto nuevo pronto? ('Do you start any new project soon?)

Mi madre comienza a estudiar chino muy pronto. ('My mother starts learning Chinese very soon')

Mis primos y yo comenzamos con un proyecto para ayudar a los animales. ('My cousins and I are starting a project to help the animals')

¿Y tú y tus amigos, comenzáis algo juntos? ('And you and your friends, do you start/ take up something together?')

Mis padres comienzan a jugar baloncesto ('My parents start playing basketball').

Listos para comenzar = ready to start
road of new beginnings

As you could see, oftentimes when you want to use comenzar to describe an intention to start something, it goes along with the preposition a (to), such as in comenzar a estudiar ('to start studying').

Preterite Conjugations Of Comenzar

Todo pasa ('Everything passes') - as you know everything that starts must come to an end, and so accordingly needs to be referred to in the past tense. Recall that the preterite is used when describing actions completed in the past, are clearly over in the present, and which were not habitual or continuous in the past.

To conjugate verbs in this specific past tense, simply remove the infinitive ending and add the suitable preterite ending. The conjugations of comenzar in the preterite tense are listed in the following table:

Pronoun Preterite conjugation Pronunciation Translation
Yo comencé koh-mayn-THAY I started
comenzaste koh-mayn-THAH-stay You started
Él, ella, Usted comenzó koh-mayn-thoh He, she, you (formal) started
Nosotros, nosotras comenzamos koh-mayn-THA-mohs We (male, female) started
Vosotros, vosotras comenzasteis koh-mayn-THA-stay-ees You (plural male, female) started
Ellos, ellas, Ustedes comenzaron koh-mayn-THA-rohn They (male, female), you (plural, formal) started

Did you have a good look at the preterite conjugations? Awesome, then let's check in with Paula Inicio (Start) to see if her family managed to stick with their previous New Year's resolutions.

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