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So I've learned that はじめまして is used in first meetings and that it stems from the verb はじめる (to start; to begin). But what form is it? It's apparently not the polite past form, which has a -た at the end (はじめました). Is it a proper verb form of はじめる anyway or should it simply be seen as a set expression?

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To break it down, はじめまして is the て form of はじめます, and はじめます is the polite form of はじめる.

はじめまして is a fixed expression.

You'll see ~~まして in some fixed expressions such as:

  • あけましておめでとうございます。-- Happy new year.
  • どういたしまして。-- You are welcome.

as well as in polite/formal speech or writing such as:

  • ご来店くださいまして、誠にありがとうございます。
    -- Thank you for visiting our store.
  • ご迷惑をおかけしまして、申し訳ございません。
    -- We are sorry to have troubled you.
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  • Can I ask a question? It seems the verb 初(はじ)める isn't found. May 3, 2016 at 14:22
  • 明鏡国語辞典 gives 始 for the verb はじめる, and gives 初 for はじめて and はじめまして, adding 「もと『始』も使ったが、今はもっぱら『初』。」, which indicates that はじめて and はじめまして are derived from the verb はじめる (or, at least these three share the same origin).
    – Chocolate
    May 3, 2016 at 14:45
  • Thank you for teaching. I first think only 初めまして is correct but it seems 始めまして is also correct. asahi-net.or.jp/~QM4H-IIM/k031002.htm May 3, 2016 at 14:56

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