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What’s the Past Tense of Begin?



What’s the past tense of “begin”?

The word (and verb) to begin (present tense), means “to start doing something; to do the first part of something”, as stated by the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary. Without further delay, let us begin today’s lesson on this irregular verb form: begin/began/begun.



Verb forms of “begin”

presentpastfuture
simpleI beginI beganI will begin
continuousI am beginningI was beginningI will be beginning
perfectI have begunI had begunI will have begun
perfect continuousI have been beginningI had been beginningI will have been beginning
12 verb tenses of ‘begin‘.

When to use began or begun?

simple pastThe concert began with a fanfare from the brass section.
present perfectThe project has already begun, so we need to start working on it now.
began vs. begun

The first sentence uses began, which is the simple past conjugation. We communicate in the simple past to refer to actions or events that took place entirely in the past.


The past participle form is begun. It’s clear when a participle vs. a simple tense is in use because participles come with auxiliary verbs to create perfect or continuous tenses in grammar; such as the past perfect, past continuous, and present perfect/continuous aspects in grammar.


To form the past perfect tense, use the past participle (e.g., begun) with the auxiliary had. To form the present perfect tense, pair the past participle with have/has (has in the third-person present singular). These aspects of time describe describe events as continuous, or as ongoing for a certain period/slice of time up until another point.

Sentences with “begin” (present simple)

I will begin my presentation with an overview of the company’s history. (future tense)

They always begin their day with a cup of coffee.

We need to begin planning for the project as soon as possible.

The concert will begin at 7 p.m. sharp. (future tense)

Let’s begin by reviewing the instructions and making sure we understand them.

Sentences with “began” (simple past)

The concert began with a fanfare from the brass section.

She began her career as a journalist at a local newspaper.

I first began to learn how to play guitar when I was 10 years old.

The company began to expand its operations overseas in the late 1990s.

He began to feel better after taking the medication for a few days.



Sentences with “begun” (past participle)

She has begun to study Spanish so she can communicate better with her coworkers.

By the time I arrived, the storm had already begun.

The new CEO has begun to implement changes to the company’s strategy.

We have only just begun to explore the possibilities of this new technology.

Practice questions: verb forms of ‘begin’

QuestionsAnswer options:
1. True or false:

“Begin” is a regular verb.
a. true
b. false
2. True or false:

“Begin” looks the same in the past tense and as a past participle.
a. true
b. false
3. True or false:

“Begun” is the simple past tense of ‘begin’.
a. true
b. false
4. Which tense is this sentence in:

I’m beginning to understand what you’re saying.
a. past
b. present continuous
c. past perfect
5. The sentence is in which tense:

I’ve begun to learn about this.
a. present perfect
b. present continuous
c. past continuous
6. Select the tense the sentence is in:

If only we began earlier.
a. present perfect
b. present
c. simple past

Answers

  1. b
  2. b
  3. b
  4. b
  5. a
  6. b



Origin of the word/verb begin

From etymology online on begin (v.):

Old English beginnan “to attempt, undertake,” a rare word beside the more usual form onginnan  from be- + West Germanic *ginnan, which is of obscure etymology and found only in compounds, perhaps “to open, open up” with sense evolution from “open” to “begin.”

Synonyms of begin

These words have similar meanings to “begin” and can be used interchangeably depending on the context:

  • commence
  • start
  • initiate
  • launch
  • embark
  • undertake
  • kick off
  • open
  • inaugurate
  • trigger
  • activate
  • set in motion
  • provoke
  • fire up
  • get underway
  • set out
  • start off
  • enter upon

Phrases/idioms with begin

phrasemeaning
begin with a bangTo start something in an exciting, impressive, or successful way; e.g., “The concert began with a bang when the lead singer burst onto the stage in a cloud of smoke and flashing lights.”
begin at the beginningTo start a story or explanation from the very beginning; e.g., “If you want to understand this complex topic, you need to begin at the beginning and learn the basics first.”
begin againTo start over or restart something from the beginning; e.g., “After failing the exam, she decided to begin again and study harder for the next one.”
begin to see the lightTo start to understand or become aware of something after a period of confusion or misunderstanding; e.g., “After weeks of struggling with the math problem, he finally began to see the light and solved it correctly.”
begin with the end in mind To plan or envision the outcome or goal of a project or task before starting it; e.g., “If you want to achieve success, you need to begin with the end in mind and set clear goals for yourself.”
begin from scratchTo start a task or project from the beginning, without any previous work or progress; e,g., “the team had to begin from scratch when their computer system crashed and they lost all of their data.”
Idioms with “begin”

Other commonly confused verb tenses



Sources

1. Wikipedia. 2023. “Indo-European ablaut.” Wikimedia Foundation. Last modified January 10, 2023. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indo-European_ablaut.

2. Harper Douglas, “Etymology of begin,” Online Etymology Dictionary, accessed March 11, 2023, https://www.etymonline.com/word/begin.


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