Conjugation of ‘Empezar’ and ‘Comenzar’ in Spanish

Irregular forms make stem and orthographic changes

chicken mole for lesson on conjugating empezar
¡Empecemos a comer! (Let's start eating!).

Regan76 / Creative Commons.

It's a only a coincidence, but the two most common Spanish verbs meaning "to begin" are irregular in the same way.

The verbs are empezar and comenzar. Both are stem-changing verbs, meaning in this case that the e in the stem changes to ie when stressed. Also, in a change related to pronunciation, the z in the ending changes to c when it is followed by an e or i.

This combination of conjugation irregularities is unusual. The only other common verbs using the same pattern are tropezar (to bump or run into) and recomenzar (to begin again).

Empezar and comenzar are nearly always interchangeable, although the former is more commonly used. A third synonym, iniciar, is also very common and is conjugated regularly.

Comenzar is a cognate of the English verb "commence." Empezar does not have an English cognate, although it is related to the English words "in" and "piece."

Irregular forms are shown below in boldface. Translations are given as a guide and in real life may vary with context.

Infinitive of Empezar

Empezar (to begin)

Gerund of Empezar

empezando (beginning)

Participle of Empezar

empezado (begun)

Present Indicative of Empezar

yo empiezo, tú empiezas, usted/él/ella empieza, nosotros/as empezamos, vosotros/as empezáis, ustedes/ellos/ellas empiezan (I begin, you begin, he begins, etc.)

Preterite of Empezar

yo empecé, tú empezaste, usted/él/ella empezó, nosotros/as empezamos, vosotros/as empezasteis, ustedes/ellos/ellas empezaron (I began, you began, she began, etc.)

Imperfect Indicative of Empezar

yo empezaba, tú empezabas, usted/él/ella empezaba, nosotros/as empezábamos, vosotros/as empezabais, ustedes/ellos/ellas empezaban (I used to begin, you used to begin, he used to begin, etc.)

Future Indicative of Empezar

yo empezaré, tú empezarás, usted/él/ella empezará, nosotros/as empezaremos, vosotros/as empezaréis, ustedes/ellos/ellas empezarán (I will begin, you will begin, he will begin, etc.)

Conditional of Empezar

que yo empezaría, que tú empezarías, que usted/él/ella empezaría, que nosotros/as empezaríamos, que vosotros/as empezaríais, que ustedes/ellos/ellas empezarían (I would begin, you would begin, she would begin, etc.)

Present Subjunctive of Empezar

que yo empiece, que tú empieces, que usted/él/ella empiece, que nosotros/as empecemos, que vosotros/as empecéis, que ustedes/ellos/ellas empiecen (that I begin, that you begin, that she begin, etc.)

Imperfect Subjunctive of Empezar

que yo empezara (empezase), que tú empezaras (empezases), que usted/él/ella empezara (empezase), que nosotros/as empezáramos empezásemos), que vosotros/as empezarais (empezaseis), que ustedes/ellos/ellas empezaran (empezasen) (that I began, that you began, that he began, etc.)

Imperative of Empezar

empieza tú, no empieces tú, empiece usted, empecemos nosotros/as, empezad vosotros/as, no empecéis vosotros/as, empiecen ustedes (begin, don't begin, begin, let's begin, etc.)

Compound Tenses of Empezar

The perfect tenses are made by using the appropriate form of haber and the past participle, empezado. The progressive tenses use estar with the gerund, empezando.

Sample Sentences Showing Conjugation of Empezar and Similar Verbs

Vamos a comenzar a establecer nuestra presencia en línea. (We're going to begin to establish our presence online. Infinitive.)

Mañana empiezo la dieta. (Tomorrow I begin my diet. Present indicative.)

Ahora es cuando comenzamos a ser conscientes del estado crítico en el que se encuentran nuestros. (Now is when we begin to be aware of the critical state in which we find ourselves. Present indicative.)

La clase empezó hace una hora. (The class began an hour ago. Preterite.)

Los dos jugadores comenzaron a tener dudas sobre su papel en el equipo. (The two players began to have doubts about their role on the team. Preterite.)

Muchos empezaban a sentirse desmotivados. (Many were beginning to feel discouraged. Imperfect.)

¡Feliz cumpleaños! Espero que empieces un nuevo año lleno de alegrías y buenos momentos. (Happy birthday! I hope you begin a year full of happiness and good times. Present subjunctive.)

Mi mamá espera que yo comience a comer. (My mother hopes I will begin to eat. Present subjunctive.)

Sin duda no pasarían muchos meses antes de que comenzaras a sufrir de dolores musculares. (Undoubtedly not many months passed before you began to suffer from muscular pain. Imperfect subjunctive.)

Yo había empezado a leer la novela unos días antes. (I had begun to read the novel a few days earlier. Pluperfect.)

Estamos comenzando la segunda revolución cuántica. (We are beginning the second quantum revolution. Present progressive.)

Empieza pronto tu búsqueda de trabajo. (Begin your job search soon. Imperative.)