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Using Commence, Administer and Prescribe


“Commence” is a very stylish, commonly used medical term but most OETians get it wrong. This is how it goes wrong:

  1. Ms Berryl was commenced on Warfarin.
  2. Ms Seeta has been commenced on warfarin.

So, what is the correct usage? You can use “commence” in any of the following ways:

  1. Ms Berryl has commenced medication on warfarin.
  2. Mrs Sygmond’s recent medication has been commenced on warfarin.
  3. Mr Perk’s treatment commenced on regular exercise.
  4. Mr Lee’s treatment has commenced on regular exercise.
  5. Mr Ebeneezer’s treatment has been commenced on regular exercise.
  6. Mr and Mrs Mayor’s treatment was commenced on regular exercise.

Why is “subject + was / has been + commenced incorrect?

Let’s consider a set of sentences where “subject + was / has been” structure looks correct and incorrect:

  1. She was advised (by her doctor) to abstain from taking drugs.
  2. Mr Ebin has been treated asymptomatically (by his doctor).
  3. Ms Sherrie has been commenced treatment of beta-blockers.

Now see how the sentences in their active and passive version:

Active Version Passive Version
Doctor advised her (whom?). She was advised (by doctor).
Doctor treated Mr Ebin (whom?). Mr Ebin was treated (by the doctor)
Ms Sherrie commenced treatment (what?). Treatment was commenced by Ms Sherrie.

Now, if you look carefully, “her”, “Mr Ebin” and “treatment” come to the starting of the passive version.

  1. Can you write “Ms Sherrie was commenced?”

Surely, that is incorrect. You will have a better idea about passive and active versions on Day 6.

Not yet Clear?

Using “patient was / has been + commenced” syntax

The words commence and start cannot be used in their passive form.

  • She has commenced medication on antibiotics.
  • She commenced medication on Warfarin.
  • Her treatment was commenced on Monday.
  • His treatment has commenced soon after the diagnosis.


“Ms Millie was commenced” is similar to “the ventilator was started.”

It is okay with the ventilator to be started (commenced) because it is a machine that cannot start itself but it is not okay with Ms Millie to be started (commenced) because she can start (commence) any action herself!

So, what is correct and what is incorrect?

Incorrect Correct
She was commenced on She commenced medication on
She has been commenced medication on She has commenced medication on
She was commenced on Her treatment commenced on


  • Administer is mostly used for single dose medication whereas “commenced” is used for a course of medication. You cannot “commence” (start) if there is only a single dose!


  • Just because a medicine has been prescribed (by your doctor) doesn’t mean that you have started taking the same. What if you forgot to buy that medicine from the pharmacy? What if you forgot to start (commence) the medicine?

Below, see if you have learnt to use “commence” correctly:

  • Question of

    Ms Eora’s treatment _____ on beta-blockers yesterday.

    • was commenced
    • was administered
  • Question of

    Mr Smith showed symptoms of Parkinson’s disease in 2015 and ____ medication on Levodopa and Amantadine till his death yesterday.

    • was commenced
    • commenced
  • Question of

    Since she was diagnosed with diabetes in 2018, she ______ medication on metformin.

    • was commenced
    • commenced
  • Question of

    Since a new medicine _____, James commenced it this morning.

    • was prescribed
    • was administered

Written by Biju John

Love for English begins with understanding its unknown rules. Biju John lives on the internet, teaching OET, IELTS and PTE. More than a million students have thanked him from their heart.

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Using “In spite of / Despite” in OET

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