553 - ~始める

JLPT N4: ~始める (begin VERB-ing; start VERB-ing)

First, be sure that you've read these two lessons:

- [NDL #546] - JLPT N4: ~終わる
- [NDL #547] - JLPT N4: ~出す

...because it will make understanding this lesson a lot easier.


Prep yourself before you wreck yourself:

The verb 始める (はじめる) means "to start" or "to begin."

This is not "to start" in sentences like "The movie started," because that would be the intransitive 始まる (はじまる) (with a ま and not a め).

Rather, it's "to start" in sentences like "I haven't even started my homework yet" or "I started studying Japanese two weeks ago."

That is, 始める (はじめる) is a transitive verb. Thing of it as meaning "to start (doing) something." Go review this lesson if you need more help with this: [NDL #4] - Help! My Japanese Needs Saving.


After reading the lessons linked to above, you'll be the master of these two grammatical forms:


V ます終わる
to finish VERB-ing


V ます出す
to (suddenly) start VERB-ing


And sentences like these will make a lot more sense:

散歩中、突然大雨が降り出した
さんぽ ちゅう、 とつぜん おおあめ が ふりだした。
It suddenly started pouring rain during my walk.
Literally: “walk + -in the middle of, + suddenly + heavy rain + が + started to fall.”

食器を洗い終わったら、倉庫の片づけを手伝ってください。
しょっき を あらいおわったら、 そうこ の かたづけ を てつだって ください。
After you’ve finished washing the dishes, please help me clean up the storage room [the warehouse].
Literally: “dishes + を + if/when (you’ve) finished washing, + warehouse / storage + の + tidying up + を + help (and) + please.”

And you'll be much less likely to have a panic attack when confronted with this knowledge bomb:

V ます始める
to start VERB-ing

Suddenly, sentences like this one make sense:

最近、ジムに通い始めました
さいきん、 ジム に かよいはじめました。
I started going to the gym recently.
Literally: “recently, + gym + に + began attending / started commuting to.”

See what we did there?

通う(かよう // to go to and from [a place]; to commute to [a place]; to attend [e.g. school, work, etc.]
通いますかよいます // go to and from [a place]; commute to [a place]; attend [e.g. school, work, etc.]

始める(はじめる // to start; to begin
始めましたはじめました // started; began

通い始めましたかよいはじめました // started attending; began going to [commuting to]


You may be wondering what the difference is between these two:

V ます出す
to (suddenly) start VERB-ing

V ます始める
to start VERB-ing

Generally speaking, if you or some other person is in control of the action that is being started, then ~始める is the option that you want to choose. So if you're talking about something that you started doing, you should use ~始める.

If the action in question is something that is out of our control―for example: a sudden rainstorm, a baby suddenly crying, etc.―then we can use ~出す. This does not necessarily mean that the action appearing with ~出す is not performed by humans. It just means that it is not something that the speaker or other individuals with him or her can easily control.

For more examples of which option is appropriate for which situations, please review this lesson: [NDL #547] - JLPT N4: ~出す.


~始める is extremely useful, and I use it all the time. I encourage you to do the same.

First, though, let's take a look at our remaining three example sentences. They will be using the verbs:

食べる(たべる // to eat
咲く(さく // to bloom
帰る(かえる // to go home

Here we go...



みんな揃ってから、食べ始めよう
みんな そろってから、 たべはじめよう。
Let’s wait for everyone before we start eating.
Literally: “everyone + is all present (and) + from, + let’s start to eat.”



東京では、毎年3月の終わりごろに桜が咲き始めます
とうきょう で は、 まいとし さんがつ の おわり ごろ に さくら が さきはじめます。
In Tokyo, the cherry blossoms start to bloom every year around the end of March.
Literally: “Tokyo + では, + every year + March + の + finish + around / about + に + cherry blossoms + が + start to bloom.”



11時を過ぎて、次々と客が帰り始めた
じゅういち じ を すぎて、 つぎつぎ と きゃく が かえりはじめた。
After eleven o’clock, customers started going home one after another.
Literally: “eleven o’clock + を + go past (and), + in succession / one by one + と + customer + が + started to go home.”


The end!

Maybe you're starting to get really good at attaching verbs to the ます-stem of other verbs?

I hope so, because our next lesson will be the fourth N4 lesson in a row in which we're doing so.

Something to look forward to...




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