I want to "start" a project and I need to choose between these four verbs!

In addition I would like to know what is the exact difference between them.

There are some posts that compare 2, but having these 4 verbs beside each other and comparing them by "Examples in Different Contexts" can help people a lot to decide which one to choose.

1 Answer 1


Of all four, Commencer is the most appropriate and Lancer the least.

Lancer means to throw or to launch and it borrows from the context of rocket launches. Je vais lancer un projet is therefore a colloquialism which should not be used in formal communication.

Démarrer would meant concentrating on the initial phase of the effort as in basically you would gather people, provide them with resources to accomplish the project (for instance funds) and then leave them alone.

Débuter is similar but is actually less and less in use. Initier is also a similar term and would probably be preferable as débuter is itself old-fashioned and démarrer is more likely associated to car use (as in "démarrer une voiture").

I would use one of the sentences below:

  • Je vais initier un projet - You are the project initiator
  • Je vais démarrer un projet - You are the project leader
  • Je vais commencer un projet - You are likely to be alone and do it all by yourself
  • Lancer is very commonly used, even in formal contexts…. Initier is in this case an Anglicism. And the usage of débuter doesn't seem appropriate in this context (and is not in use). Nov 16, 2015 at 9:58
  • How did you come to the conclusion that Lancer in this context is an Anglicism? There are many anglicism that are in actuality a Gallicism in English. Nov 16, 2015 at 16:31
  • I did not that lancer was one. Initier is one as it never inculded “starting an activity” in its commonly accepted definitions. Nov 16, 2015 at 17:43

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