I recently learned that the construction +かける means to start something, but with an implication that the action was left unfinished:


"I've had a beer before, but I didn't like its taste at all." (かけた here tells us I did not finish the beer.)

But I've also learned that in certain cases, there is no such implication of something being left unfinished:


"I have gradually started to understand his feelings."

(This example is from maggiesensei.com)

How can I tell when a sense of incompletion is implied? Not knowing this could lead to some confusion and poor translation.

  • If you have a better example where the かける does NOT imply incompletion, it would be useful to help the gurus answer. The 2nd example also had a sense of it, both due to the だんだん and due to the topic (understanding other person's feelings). I could not come up with a good example at least, unless one considers a sentence like 彼に話しかけましたが無視されました to have the same structure.
    – Tuomo
    Commented Jun 30, 2019 at 5:27
  • The aspectual subsidiary かける has two types of aspect it can express: (a) that of "come close to doing [something] (but do not do it actually)" (apparently called 将現態 by some linguists), and (b) that of "have began to do something (though have not completed it)" (apparently called 始動態).For the かける in ビールを飲みかけたことがある, I think (a) is a much stronger or the only possible reading whereas for 彼の気持ちがわかりかけてきた, (b) is the only possible reading.
    – goldbrick
    Commented Jun 30, 2019 at 6:19
  • Related(?): japanese.stackexchange.com/q/38193/7810 Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 9:42

1 Answer 1


Unfortunately your first example doesn't tell the same meaning as your English. You have to say:


Plainly speaking, ~しかける has only one meaning: aborting before the action reaches the "effective" stage. What means by "effective" is different according to verb (see Aktionsart), and often to each situation i.e. the moment you concern most in the action when you use the verb. For example:

I nearly drank water in the glass when I realized it was sake. (not mouthed yet)

I all but swallowed a whole piece of rice cake; I thought I was going to die. (already mouthed)

I almost wrote "Heisei" into the form though it's already Reiwa. (not put pen yet)

I want to finish my halfway written book. (already written a lot)

From the second example in your question we can read that the speaker wants to fully understand his feeling, and until that the "understanding" is "incomplete". Thus the usage is valid.

On the other hand, people usually drink beverage to taste it, so it's normally understood that 飲む is "complete" when you take in beer. It's invalid unless you have some complicated context e.g. the speaker wants to poison the target etc.

  • That explanation makes a lot of sense, thank you! Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 10:56
  • He probably thought he made one gulp and left the rest in the glas. Would that be a valid usage or would it have to be put more explicitly then.
    – mic
    Commented Mar 31, 2021 at 21:10
  • So what is the likely meaning of the example 1 (ビールを飲みかけたことがあるんだけど、味を全然好きなかった)?
    – max
    Commented Sep 27, 2022 at 9:09
  • 1
    @max 味を全然好きなかった is ungrammatical and should be 味が全然好きじゃなかった. With that, it'd mean like "I almost had beer once and I didn't like its taste". I guess it doesn't make sense either. Commented Sep 27, 2022 at 14:32

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