Commencer à does not work

Answered! Jump to accepted answer.


Kwiziq community member

13 January 2019

5 replies

Commencer à does not work

Bonjour ! 

I have been told by French people that I cannot apply this rule to the verb commencer à. 

For example: 

Je commence à faire mes devoirs. J'y commence. 

I am starting to do my homework. I'm starting it. 

Is it an exception ? Or is it just socially not regularly used ? 

Merci ! 

This question relates to:
French lesson "Y can replace à + thing / object / location (adverbial pronoun)"


Kwiziq community member

13 January 2019


I think the rule is that "à + infinitive" can only be replaced with "y" after verbs that either:

a) also take à before a noun, e.g. penser ("Je pense à mes devoirs")

b) never take a noun object, e.g. arriver.

An example of a) is included in the lesson:

Nous pensons à faire nos devoirs. Nous y pensons.

An example of b) is:

Je n'arrive pas à faire mes devoirs".  Je n'y arrive pas.

Commencer takes a direct noun object ("je commence mes devoirs") so you can't use "y" to replace an infinitive.


Kwiziq language super star

14 January 2019


Hi Juliette,

Just to add to Alan’s answer you will never hear -

J’y commence...

You have to say =

‘Je commence à les faire’ 

Hope this helps !



Kwiziq community member

17 January 2019


Bonjour, i've read this thread of questions a few times and I can't seem to understand why you can't say "J'y commence" since commencer is followed by à.  Which i also see is the case on another site that indicates you use à after commencer to mean to begin to.

Is it just idiomatic that you can't say J'y commence and is an exception or is this related to a rule?  If so i'm not sure I see how that is explained.  Perhaps someone can help me?  Is it because "y" can only replace a thing or object (which may precede a noun, such as "à faire mes devoirs") and not replace just a verb?

Also, the comment by Alan states that commencer takes a direct object which contradicts Cécile's response that indicates it does.  Is Alan's statement incorrect?



Kwiziq community member

17 January 2019


I don't think there's any contradiction between Cécile's reply and mine.

Commencer takes à before a verb, but not before a noun.

Penser takes à before a verb, and also before a noun.

It's this subtle difference that means you can say "j'y pense" but not "j'y commence", even if it's a verb that you're intending to replace.

I tried to explain the rule in my original reply. (It's not explained in the lesson, but you can find it explained this way in some grammar books.)


Kwiziq community member

17 January 2019


Oh I see thank you. Very tricky

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