Empezar Conjugation: Present Tense & Command

Instructor: Elena Sacramento Lechado

Elena has a PhD in linguistics from University of La Laguna (Spain). Currently, she teaches Spanish as a foreign language and creates teaching resources.

The Spanish verb 'empezar' means 'to start.' Learn how to talk about your routines or the activities you want to start with its present tense, and how to give commands with its imperative.

Let's Start!

How do you like to start your day? What time do you usually start school or work? Are you planning to start any new activities soon? You can talk about all this with Spanish speakers by using the verb empezar (pronounced: ehm-peh-SAHR), which means 'to start.'

Keep reading to learn its conjugation in the present tense and discover how to give affirmative commands with its imperative. Let's start working!

Translation: To start the day.

Present Tense of Empezar

We use the present tense to talk about our habits or routines, or to mention facts. Also, it's quite common to use this tense to refer to events in the near future. So, use the present of empezar to say at what time you usually start working or that you're starting a new activity next week.

Empezar is a stem-changing verb, so its stem vowel changes in the present. To conjugate it, use the irregular stem empiez- for all forms, EXCEPT FOR nosotros/as and vosotros/as, which keep the regular stem empez-. Then, add the endings below and you'll have the conjugation.

VERB: empezar (ehm-peh-SAHR) - to start

Pronunciation Translation
yo empiezo (ehm-PYEH-soh) I start
empiezas (ehm-PYEH-sahs) you start
empieza (ehm-PYEH-sah) he/she starts -
you (formal) start
empezamos (ehm-peh-SAH-mohs) we start
empezáis (ehm-peh-SIYS) you all start
empiezan (ehm-PYEH-sahn) they start
you all start

Note: Only Spaniards use the form vosotros/as when addressing more than one person in an informal situation. In the rest of the Spanish-speaking countries, everyone uses ustedes in all settings.

Use & Examples of Empezar in the Present

When using this verb in context, notice that there are two possible structures:

  • empezar + noun
  • empezar + a + infinitive

Let's hear Nuria and María, who talk about their daily routines and timetables.

Nuria: ¿Cómo empiezas el día normalmente? (How do you normally start your day?)

María: Por lo general, empiezo el día con un buen desayuno y el periódico. (Generally, I start my day with a nice breakfast and the newspaper.) Juan y yo empezamos a trabajar a las nueve, pero nos gusta levantarnos mucho antes y tomarnos nuestro tiempo. (Juan and I start working at 9, but we like to get up much earlier and take our time.) ¿Ustedes a qué hora empiezan a trabajar? (What time do you (both) start working?)

Nuria: Luis empieza a las ocho y media y los niños empiezan el colegio a las nueve. (Luis starts at 8:30 and the children start school at 9.) Yo, normalmente, empiezo un poco más tarde, porque trabajo desde casa. (Normally, I start a bit later, because I work from home.)

Then, they talk about their free time activities, and María says she's going to try the classes at the gym.

María: La próxima semana empiezo las clases de zumba. (Next week I'll start zumba classes.)

Nuria: Me gustaría probar. (I'd like to try.) ¿A qué hora empiezan las clases? (What time do classes start?)

Translation: Juan starts working at 9.

Imperative of Empezar

We use the imperative to give affirmative orders or commands, and also to make suggestions.

To form the imperative of empezar, we'll use its irregular stem for all subject pronouns, EXCEPT FOR and vosotros/as, which keep the same stem as the infinitive.

Note: Pay attention to the spelling. The letter z is replaced by c when followed by e.

VERB: empezar (ehm-peh-SAHR) - to start

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