How to Conjugate 'Commencer' (to Begin, Start, Commence)

Simple conjugations for the French verb commencer

The French verb commencer means "to begin," "to start" or "to commence." If you add à after it, it means "to start doing." 

For example:

Je commence les leçons d'anglais lundi.
I start English lessons on Monday.

Je commence à apprendre l'anglais lundi.
I start learning English on Monday.

How to Conjugate the French Verb Commencer

Like all verbs that end in -cer, Commencer is a spelling change verb. The stem is either commenc- or commenç-, but the endings follow the conjugation pattern of regular -er verbs. When the ending starts with an a or o, you must use the ç. This happens in the present, imperfect, passé simple, imperfect subjunctive and imperative tenses. See the charts below for guidance on conjugating commencer.

Present Future Imperfect Present participle
je commence commencerai commençais commençant
tu commences commenceras commençais n/a
il commence commencera commençait n/a
nous commençons commencerons commencions n/a
vous commencez commencerez commenciez n/a
ils commencent commenceront commençaient n/a
Subjunctive Conditional Passé simple Imperfect subjunctive
je commence commencerais commençai commençasse
tu commences commencerais commenças commençasses
il commence commencerait commença commençât
nous commencions commencerions commençâmes commençassions
vous commenciez commenceriez commençâtes commençassiez
ils commencent commenceraient commencèrent commençassent
(tu) commence
(nous) commençons
(vous) commencez

How to Use Commencer in the Past Tense

To use commencer in the past tense, you will most likely use the passé composé. This compound tense requires an auxiliary verb, which for commencer is avoir, in addition to the past participle (commencé).

For example:

Elles ont commencé le lycée la semaine dernière.
They started high school last week.

Nous avons commencé à lire le livre hier soir.
We started reading the book last night.

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Team, ThoughtCo. "How to Conjugate 'Commencer' (to Begin, Start, Commence)." ThoughtCo, Dec. 6, 2021, Team, ThoughtCo. (2021, December 6). How to Conjugate 'Commencer' (to Begin, Start, Commence). Retrieved from Team, ThoughtCo. "How to Conjugate 'Commencer' (to Begin, Start, Commence)." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 28, 2023).