student asking question

What's the difference between "start", "begin" and "commence"? For example, I've often seen the antagonist of the movies saying "commence the attack" instead of saying "start the attack", however it's hard to tell the difference.

teacher

Native speaker’s answer

Rebecca

In this context, they pretty much mean the same thing! What's different here is the tone. "Commence" has more of an official tone than "start". I'd also say "start" has a few more meanings than the other two words. "Commence" and "begin", both mean for an event or something to begin. "Start" does have the same meaning as begin in some contexts! However, it also means for something to happen or exist, the beginning of something, or a sudden movement. Ex: Jill tried one more time to start the fire, and it worked. Ex: The race is going to begin at five am. Ex: Let me tell you a story, It all started when I was ten years old, and I baked my first cake. Ex: Commence lift-off in: Three. Two. One. Lift-off!

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