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

Spanish Empezar Terminar

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

The purpose of this lesson is to learn the most important verbs we use in Spanish to express the beginning and the end of any action or event. They are important and frequently used verbs, such as “empezar” and “terminar”.

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

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

Finally, we will explain how these verbs work in past tenses.

1. Spanish verbs for 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 not only irregular but also reflexive:

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


Let’s 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: “to start, to begin”.

They are followed by the preposition “a” when they introduce a verb, and that verb must be expressed in 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.

With this meaning, “ponerse” is always followed by the preposition “a”, and then a verb in infinitive form.

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 for endings

The most frequent Spanish verbs used to express the end of an action or event 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...


Let’s 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: “to end, to finish”.

They are followed by the preposition “de” when they introduce a verb, and that verb must be expressed in 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”.

With this meaning, “dejar” is always followed by the preposition “de”, and then a verb in infinitive form.

Dejo de fumar.
I stop smoking.

Vosotros dejáis de hablar.
You guys stop talking.

3. Beginnings and ends in the past

Finally, we should comment something about the behavior of these verbs when talking about past actions and events.

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. Beginnings and ends are moments, not ongoing situations.

For that reason, 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.