je commence à manger les pâtes, Why the "à"?
je commence à manger les pâtes, I know it is right, but why is there an "à" there. Shouldn't it be: Je commence manger les pâtes
I'm ignorant about the details (I believe when I learned French years ago I was told just to memorize it), but here's a decent link: http://french.about.com/od/grammar/a/preposition_a_2.htm
Searching for "à plus infinitive" might also help.
It's less about "manger" than it is about "commencer": when commencer is followed by an infinitive, à should intervene. From the linked article I gather that it is similar to English verbs that can be followed by an infinitive or a gerund, but I don't know how deep that connection goes. Perhaps, though, if you can think of the English construction as "I commence eating" vs. "I commence (start) to eat" -- that is, if you can imagine an -ing word or a preposition + -ing word followed the conjugated verb, then the "à + infinitive" construction might be appropriate?