When describing intransitive actions that are commencing, I often end up saying dumb things like 沸き始まる (わきはじまる) instead of 沸き始める (わきはじめる) - starting to boil. Perhaps it's some meta pattern I am projecting from my knowledge of English!?!

When should I use which, what are the rules and common exceptions?

Thank you

  • A more interesting question might when to use ~始める, ~出す and ~てくる. For the situation I'm imagining you want to use this for (boiling water or food), I think 沸いてきた sounds more natural. Can't explain exactly why, though.
    – dainichi
    Commented Jun 7, 2012 at 2:11

1 Answer 1


When you express the idea of "begin to [verb]", the pattern is masu stem + はじめる, without exception, whether the verb is transitive or not. The distinction between はじめる and はじまる only applies when the verb is used on its own.

You could think of, say, 走り始める as having 走り as a sort of object of 始める, in which case it's obvious that you would never use 始まる, though I don't know if this is etymologically what's going on.

  • So could we say A:お湯がもう沸き始めたの? B:うん、もう始まったよ!
    – crunchyt
    Commented Jun 20, 2011 at 0:54
  • Mm, I don't think I'm qualified to make any definitive statement on that. If I were in that position I'd probably have just said うん、沸き始めた。 (Or of course simply うん、そうだ. ;)) Commented Jun 20, 2011 at 3:02
  • Or just うん。 :) @crunchyt: I second with Kef; うん、始まった sounds unnatural to me (and so does うん、始めた), and うん、湧き始めた sounds natural. (But I cannot rule out the possibility that うん、始まった is natural in some contexts.) Commented Jun 21, 2011 at 1:45
  • Thanks guys. In checking Google I found that 始まる really doesn't work as an auxiliary/suffix the way 始める does. So I can cross it completely off my mental list when deciding how to say "started ..." :D
    – crunchyt
    Commented Jun 21, 2011 at 6:34

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