All three of these words mean "to start", but what's the difference between them and where are they used?

  • I like this question because it is a good simple example of the three main verb types in Japanese, verbal nouns, transitive verbs and intransitive verbs. But I suspect this type of question about verbs has been asked before, just with a different verb triplet.
    – taylor
    Aug 25, 2012 at 16:45
  • @Taylor: I agree, perhaps we need a more generic title for the question.
    – Tim
    Aug 26, 2012 at 2:57
  • Should I edit my question so it's more generalised and with the current words as an example?
    – 小太郎
    Aug 27, 2012 at 6:02
  • I think it is a good idea but it is your q.
    – Tim
    Aug 29, 2012 at 6:30
  • ...now I think about it, I don't really know how to generalise this question. Maybe someone else could edit it for me?
    – 小太郎
    Aug 29, 2012 at 7:43

2 Answers 2


始まる is an intransitive verb. Hence, it does not have a direct object, ex "Something starts ".

始める is a transitive verb. Hence, it has a direct object, ex "Someone starts something".

開始 is a noun. You can make it into a verb by adding suru.

  • 4
    Then what would be the difference between 開始する and the others?
    – 小太郎
    Aug 25, 2012 at 12:42

This is an extension of Dono's response.

開始 contains two kanji, 開く meaning to open and 始まる/める which we know from Dono means begin. Not surprisingly, 開始 can take on either single character in certain circumstances. To demonstrate this I have posted some examples of how 開始 gets used as a verb with する from the Apple dictionary below. In general compound verbs like this get used in more formal/written Japanese.

Note: I agree with Taylor's comment, fair question but if this is the first time you have come across this kind of thing then I should take this as one example and get ready for lots more cases like this or other variations.

かいし【開始】:(an) opening; a beginning; commencement

開始する|begin; start; ⦅文語⦆ commence

この支店は4月10日から業務を開始する|This branch (office) will [open for / start] business on April 10.

試合開始のサイレンが鳴った|A siren sounded to announce the beginning of the game.

攻撃を開始する|launch [open] an attack ⦅on the enemy⦆

委員会はその件の調査を開始した|The committee opened [launched] an investigation of the matter.

いよいよ行動開始の時だ|Now we must go into action.

昨日両都市間のバス運行が開始された|Bus service between the two cities was inaugurated yesterday.

日本とアメリカは明日交渉を開始する|Japan and the U.S. open [enter into] negotiations tomorrow.

  • I think the OP was also asking about how Noun+する verbs operate in terms of transitivity. Are you saying that ~を開始する is transitive, and ~が開始される (in the passive) is the intransitive counterpart?
    – kandyman
    Dec 4, 2018 at 11:44

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