始める - Grammar Discussion

to start, to begin to

Structure

  • Verb[stem] + はじめる
  • Verb[stem] + はじめた

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Is there a reason so many of these sentences require me to enter the informal form?

@Johnathan-Weir We do this mostly to match the audio associated with the original sentence.

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Alright, just making sure I wasn’t missing some sort of subtlety.

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日本語(にほんご)を勉強(べんきょう) しはじめて すぐ

why しはじめてrather than しはじめた?

Hey! If you were to say 日本語を勉強し始めた。すぐ日本語の難しさが分かった。The English equivalent would be “I started studying Japanese. I soon understood the difficulty of Japanese.” However, if you use the conjunctive 始めて here, the sentence flows much more naturally in both English and Japanese. 日本語を勉強し始めてすぐ、日本語の難しさが分かった。- " Soon after I started studying Japanese, I realized the difficulty of the language." You will also often find 始めて paired with すぐ and から, so if you see すぐ or から immediately following the blank, it is a good indicator to use the て-form of 始める. Cheers!

I ran into that trap as well. In a case like this, should 始めて only be used when followed by すぐ or から, or are there other examples as well ?
I’m confused when to use て vs た in a case like this.

@Paulkun Hey! When the て-form appears in the middle of a sentence, it is usually acting as a conjunction between two parts of the sentence. So, in the above example, if we were to remove すぐ altogether, we would still have a functional sentence: 日本語を勉強し始めて、(すぐ)日本語の難しさが分かった。 Notice the comma after 始めて. Using the て-form here is like saying “and” in English, so the English translation might be something like, “I started studying Japanese and I realized the difficulty of the language.” When the て-form is used in this way, whatever precedes it will happen or has happened before anything that follows it.

The た(past)-form can only be used in the middle of a sentence if it is followed by a particle. た cannot be paired with すぐ like て and if we pair た with から, it changes the meaning of から from “since”/“from” to “because.” Therefore, if we were to say: 日本語を勉強し始めたから日本語の難しさが分かった。the sentence would mean “Because I started studying Japanese, I realized its difficulty.”

I hope this helps clear things up a bit. Let me know if you have any further questions. Cheers!