Grammar Grappler #25: Start is the New Begin

Are you starting something or beginning something?

This post is a hat tip to Phil Hardwick’s blog “From the Ground Up” found at

The former director of business analysts at Millsaps College Else School of Management, Phil and his wife moved to north Georgia a few years ago, where Phil continues his writing and facilitating leadership retreats.

Phil and I are old-school grammarians. That’s why his commentary on this confusing word pair made me smile. See what you think about this sentence. Is it correct?


The professor said if any student starts a sentence with a conjunction, he or she will lose 10 points on the essay.

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Answer: Incorrect

The correct sentence reads:

The professor said if any student begins a sentence with a conjunction, he or she will lose 10 points on the essay.

Like Phil, I was taught start refers to items such as engines, cars, and motors.

Begin refers to non-mechanical items such as sentences, projects, and diets.

These days speakers and writers don’t seem to distinguish between start and begin and use them synonymously. Apparently, Phil, start IS the new begin.


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