start

commence, begin, start
1. Commence is a more formal Latinate word for begin or start. Fowler's advice (1926) was to use begin and its derivatives except when these seem incongruous (which is in fact rare); occasions when commence is more appropriate include official announcements, statements of historical importance, and suchlike. It is therefore a sound rule to use begin in all ordinary contexts unless start is customary (e.g. The engine started at once / They usually start work at 9.30 / The game started on time), and to reserve commence for more formal occasions, such as the law (to commence an action), warfare (Hostilities commenced on 4 August), and the domain of ceremonial (The procession will commence at 2 p.m.).
2. Constructions available to commence are more limited than to begin; in particular begin can more readily be followed by a to-infinitive, whereas a verbal noun is now more natural after commence: They began to eat or They began eating but They commenced eating. However, commence + to will be found in older writing. Definitely to be avoided is a mixed style of to + verbal noun:

• ☒ Then he commenced to coming by our place —M. Golden, 1989.


Modern English usage. 2014.

Synonyms:

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  • Start — (st[aum]rt), v. t. 1. To cause to move suddenly; to disturb suddenly; to startle; to alarm; to rouse; to cause to flee or fly; as, the hounds started a fox. [1913 Webster] Upon malicious bravery dost thou come To start my quiet? Shak. [1913… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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