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Quick answer
"Inicio" is a noun which is often translated as "start", and "al principio" is an adverb which is often translated as "at the beginning". Learn more about the difference between "inicio" and "al principio" below.
A masculine noun is used with masculine articles and adjectives (e.g. el hombre guapo, el sol amarillo).
1. (general)
a. start
El pasado jueves marcó el inicio oficial de la campaña electoral.Last Thursday marked the official start of the electoral campaign.
b. beginning
Cuando empecé a hablar con Inés, supe que sería el inicio de una buena amistad.As soon as I started talking to Ines, I knew that it was the beginning of a great friendship.
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al principio(
An adverb is a word that describes a verb, an adjective, or other adverbs (e.g. to run quickly, very tired).
1. (at first)
a. at the beginning
Las clases eran fáciles al principio, pero para el final del año nadie entendía nada.Classes were easy at the beginning, but by the end of the year, no one understood anything.
b. initially
Me cayó bien al principio, pero después descubrí que era una estafadora.I liked her initially, and then I discovered that she was a con artist.
c. in the beginning
Recuerdo que, al principio, le daba miedo conducir.I remember that, in the beginning, he was afraid of driving.
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