I am not a native speaker and I have came up with a problem of using start vs. beginning. Which one is more proper to indicate a date (year)? For example:

  • The year in which physiotherapy treatment has begun.
  • The year in which physiotherapy treatment has started.

And the same goes for finish/end.

  • The year in which physiotherapy treatment has finished.
  • The year in which physiotherapy treatment has ended.
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    I think you need was there instead of has. – tchrist Dec 27 '12 at 13:12
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    Do you mean any of these as complete sentences, or just phrases? As is, they do not form grammatically correct complete sentences. Other than that, there is no problem with your lexical choice; also note that even though your book/teacher may have specified that start/finish and begin/end always must appear in those given pairs, they seem interchangeable to me. – Mitch Dec 27 '12 at 14:21
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    One additional consideration is that there is a potential shade of difference between ended and finished: If something has finished, it has stopped because it reached the concluding point. If something has ended, it has stopped, but not necessarily because it finished; there remains the possibility that it stopped for any of a variety of other reasons. So, "the year in which physiotherapy finished" means that the therapy was completed, while "the year in which physiotherapy ended" might mean that the patient simply stopped showing up, for example. – Hellion Dec 27 '12 at 15:45

I would go with simple past on all of those. It doesn't matter whether you use began/started or finished/ended, since they are interchangeable.

The year in which physiotherapy treatment began.
The year in which physiotherapy treatment ended.
The year in which physiotherapy treatment started.
The year in which physiotherapy treatment finished.

Note that you could simplify the sentence still further by removing unnecessary words:

The year the physiotherapy began.

Or even:

The year I [she, he, they] began physiotherapy.

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    Agreed (+1), but I would add that while interchangable, begin/end or start/finish should be used in pairs and not mixed (e.g. begin/finish). While it would be easily understandable, it wouldn't seem quite right to a native speaker's ear. – Joel Brown Dec 27 '12 at 13:31
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    @JoelBrown: I don't find anything odd about a mix-and-match approach. For example, the beginning of a race track is called the starting line and the end is called the finish line. There are of course more nuances involved than I gave in my answer, but the question was about the words in general, not in any particular shade of meaning. I would definitely say I finished my dinner rather than ended it, but whether I started it or began it seems inconsequential. Probably if I discontinued the meal before time I would say I ended it. There are nuances, but no general rules favor either. – Robusto Dec 27 '12 at 13:39
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    This to me is the beauty of the English language. I suppose if I weren't a native speaker it might be the thing I found the most frustrating. There are often many ways to say the same thing with varying degrees of nuance. To my ear, starting dinner implies the cooking process whereas beginning rather more the eating. Nevertheless, I agree that there are no general rules to favour either, and if there were, we English speakers love to violate them. – Joel Brown Dec 27 '12 at 13:56

I think begin sounds natural here. I'd prefer using start when I do something on my own, for example, "I started my scooter."


You'd say "the year in which it had begun" or "was begun," not "has begun," unless you're referring to the current year and it's ongoing ("this is the year in which it has begun"). Or as Robusto suggested, you can say "the year in which it began," which is simpler and a bit more natural. I don't see any problem with any combination of begin/start and end/finish.


The word "finished" generally means completed. "End" means stopped but doesn't necessarily mean completed.

I finished doing the laundry. My laundry crusade has ended. The second sentence doesn't necessarily say I completed doing the laundry, I could have given up.

"Begin" and "end" are better for date. "Start" and "finish" are better for something which can be completed.


While 'begin' is often more formal, 'start' is often less formal. While 'start' is a sharper, more jolting word, 'begin' is softer, gentler.

Of course, there are instances where they are not interchangeable. You can't 'begin' your scooter, you can only start it. A race does not have a 'beginning' line.

In most cases, though, they are interchangeable. They mean almost the same thing. But not precisely the same thing.

So the usage can then depend on the context.

Let's say you are an author writing a novel. If the scene is an action scene or has snappy dialog, 'start' might work better to support the mood of the scene.

"Don't start with me!" seems to make better sense than "Don't begin with me!"

If the scene is more emotional and contemplative, 'begin' might work better.

"Have faith. You'll begin to see how much I love you" works better than "Have faith. You'll start to see how much I love you".

Also, if the speaking is casual between people carousing at a party or in a bar scene, 'start' likely works better than 'begin'. If it is a job interview, "I began working at Google in 2009" will sound more professional than "I started working at Google in 2009". It says the same thing, conveying the same information on the surface, but different information in subtext. And as we know, presentation is everything.

We normally conflate the two words, but they do have different shades of meaning, depending on the context. An author can get away with not paying attention to this, but an author who wants to polish their prose can raise it to the next level by choosing the right word for the right situation.

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