921 - ~てはじめて

JLPT N3: ~てはじめて (not until...; only once...)

初めて (はじめて) is a super useful word. It means something like "for the first time."

For example, if someone tells you something you didn't know and you want to show that you think it's interesting, you can say:

へぇ~、初めて知った!
へぇ~、 はじめて しった!
Really? I didn't know that.
Literally: "へぇ~, + for the first time + knew."


初めて (はじめて) will sometimes appear after a verb in the て-form, in which case it is being used to express that the action described by the て-form verb is causing some kind of realization or development which is described in the second half of the sentence.

[some kind of action] + ~てはじめて + [new realization, development, etc.]

For example, in the sentence below "living alone" is what causes the speaker's realization that he/she should be thankful for his parents:

一人暮らしをしはじめて親のありがたさがわかった。
ひとりぐらし を してはじめて おや の ありがたさ が わかった。
It wasn’t until I started living alone that I came to understand how thankful I should be for my parents.
Literally: “living alone + を + do (and) + はじめて + parents + の + blessing + が + understood.”


[some kind of action] + ~てはじめて + [new realization, development, etc.]
→ live alone + ~てはじめて + came to understand how thankful I should be for my parents
→ → It wasn’t until I started living alone that I came to understand how thankful I should be for my parents

 

That previous example might seem a little wordy... partly because translating the word ありがたさ into concise English is so difficult. Some dictionaries say "value," "virtue," or "blessing." But really it is more so a way to describe that the thing in question is something you should or do feel thankful for.

Anyway...

失っ初めて、自分が彼女をどれほど愛しているか気付いた。
うしなってはじめて、 じぶん が かのじょ を どれほど あいしている か きづいた。
It wasn’t until I lost her that I realized just how much I love her.
Literally: “lose (and) + はじめて, + oneself + が + girlfriend + を + how much + am loving + か + realized.”
Note: The nuance is that the speaker and his/her girlfriend broke up.


[some kind of action] + ~てはじめて + [new realization, development, etc.]
I lost (her) + ~てはじめて + I realized just how much I love her
→ → It wasn’t until I lost her that I realized just how much I love my her.

 

You don't have to use kanji for 初めて (はじめて) if you don't want to.

If I had to bet money on it, I'd say that they would use hiragana on the JLPT:

あらゆる依存症の克服は、周りの理解と協力があっはじめて可能になる。
あらゆる いぞんしょう の こくふく は、 まわり の りかい と きょうりょく が あってはじめて かのう に なる。
Overcoming any type of addiction only becomes possible once you have the understanding and support of those around you.
Literally: “all + addiction + の + overcoming + は, + surrounding + の + understanding + と + cooperation + が + have (and) + はじめて + possibility + に + become.”

 

Last one!

僕は、頂上まで登っはじめてその山に登ったと言えると思います。
ぼく は、 ちょうじょう まで のぼってはじめて その やま に のぼった と いえる と おもいます。
I think you can't truly say that you've climbed a mountain until you’ve climbed all the way to the summit.
Literally: “I + は, + summit + まで + climb (and) + はじめて + that + mountain + に + climbed + と + can say + と + think.”

 

By the way, the usage described above is slightly different than the ~てはじめて in the common phrase 生まれて初めて (うまれてはじめて), which means "for the first time in [my] life."

We saw this phrase back in our N3 lesson on ~きる

生まれて初めてマニキュアを使い切った。
うまれて はじめて マニキュア を つかいきった。
This is the first time in my life that I’ve used up an entire bottle of nail polish.
Literally: “am born (and) + for the first time + nail polish (=manicure) + を + completely used.”


Feel free to go back and review that one if you're feeling like an awesome student today...