Spanish Verbs about Beginnings and Ends: “Empezar”, “Terminar”…

Spanish Empezar Terminar

Welcome to our grammar lesson on Spanish Verbs about Beginnings and Ends.

The purpose of this lesson is to learn the most important verbs we can use in Spanish to express beginnings and ends of a thing or an action.

Because they share some common grammar characteristics, it is clever to learn these verbs in the same lesson.

We will start with verbs about beginnings, providing example sentences. Then, we will do the same with verbs about endings. 

Finally, we will explain how these verbs tend to work grammatically when talking about past actions.

1. Spanish Verbs about Beginnings

The most frequent Spanish verbs used to express beginnings are:

  • empezar (a…)
  • comenzar (a…)
  • ponerse a…

The following table shows their conjugations in Present Tense. They are all irregular, and “ponerse” is reflexive on top of that:

 EmpezarComenzarPonerse a...
yoempiezocomienzome pongo a...
empiezascomienzaste pones a...
élempiezacomienzase pone a...
nosotrosempezamoscomenzamosnos ponemos a...
vosotrosempezáiscomenzáisos ponéis a...
ellosempiezancomienzanse ponen a...

We will now learn about each of the 3 verbs:

“Empezar (a…)” – “Comenzar (a…)”

“Empezar” and “comenzar” are the two most important verbs to talk about beginnings. They both have they same meaning, and can be translated in English as “to start, to begin”.

In sentences in which this verb expresses “to start doing something”, they are followed by preposition “a…” and then an infinitive form.

Example sentences:

Las vacaciones empiezan el viernes.
Holidays begin on Friday.

¿A qué hora empiezas?
What time to you start?

Mañana comienzo.
I start tomorrow.

La película comienza pronto.
The movie starts soon.

Los niños empiezan a jugar.
The children begin to play.

Empieza a llover.
It starts raining.

Nosotros comenzamos a trabajar.
We start to work.

Yo comienzo a hacer mis tareas.
I start doing my homework.

“Ponerse a…”

“Ponerse a…” also expresses the beginning of an action, but this verb in particular emphasizes the spontaneous nature of that action.

This verb ALWAYS needs the preposition “a…” and then an infinitive form, in order to mean the beginning of an action:

Me pongo a ver la tele.
I start watching TV. (spontaneously)

Mis padres se ponen a discutir.
My parents start discussing / fighting. (spontaneously)

2. Spanish Verbs about Ends

The most frequent Spanish verbs used to express ends are:

  • terminar (de…)
  • acabar (de…)
  • dejar de…

The following table shows their conjugations in Present Tense. They are all regular:

 TerminarAcabarDejar de...
yoterminoacabodejo de...
terminasacabasdejas de...
élterminaacabadeja de...
nosotrosterminamosacabamosdejamos de...
vosotrostermináisacabáisdejáis de...
ellosterminanacabandejan de...

We will now learn about each of the 3 verbs:

“Terminar (de…)” – “Acabar (de…)”

“Terminar” and “acabar” are the two most important verbs to talk about beginnings. They both have they same meaning, and can be translated in English as “to end, to finish”.

In sentences in which this verb expresses “to finish doing something”, they are followed by preposition “de…” and then an infinitive form.

Example sentences:

La historia termina bien.
The story ends well.

Yo termino el crucigrama.
I finish the crossword.

Nosotros acabamos.
We finish.

Ellos acaban la carrera.
They finish the race.

Yo termino de trabajar.
I finish working.

Vosotros termináis de escribir la carta.
You guys finish writing the letter.

¿A qué hora acabas de comer?
What time do you finish eating?

Los atletas acaban de practicar.
The athletes finish practicing.

“Dejar de…”

“Dejar de…” also expresses the end of an action, but it means “to stop doing something”, rather than “to finish”. The difference is subtle, but it exists.

This verb ALWAYS needs the preposition “de…” and then an infinitive form, in order to mean the end of an action:

Dejo de fumar.
I stop smoking.

Vosotros dejáis de hablar.
You guys stop talking.

3. Verbs about beginnings and ends in Past Tenses: almost never in Imperfect Tense

Finally, we should comment something about the behavior in past tenses of all the verbs seen in this lesson.

The key thing to remember is that they are almost never conjugated in Imperfect Tense. The reason is, the Imperfect Tense is used for descriptions and ongoing situations in the past. So it doesn’t go well with verbs that express a beginning or an end. 

When talking about the past, these verbs tend to be conjugated in Preterite Tense:

Él empezó a llorar.
He started crying.

Ayer dejé de fumar.
Yesterday I stopped smoking.

Or in Present Perfect Tense:

La película ha empezado.
The film has started.

Hemos acabado la lección.
We have finished the lesson.