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I'm at a point where I keep encountering new compound verbs and I'm not sure how I should approach them to study. Is there a list or category of "main" compound suffixes (like 続ける, 始める, etc.) that carries the same meaning for every compound? What are the rules for making compound verbs (if there are any)?

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  • Sometimes verbs might look compound but are more a matter of one thing happens and then the other, and the speaker / writer is omitting the ~て. Do you have any examples that you could share? Commented Sep 16, 2021 at 17:13
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    How to approach them? Slowly and quietly; don't scare them.
    – istrasci
    Commented Sep 16, 2021 at 17:57
  • @istrasci I think there's an English verb for what you describe: "creep".
    – Eddie Kal
    Commented Sep 16, 2021 at 19:37
  • @EddieKal: Yeah, but there's a 15-character minimum limit on comments, so I had to expound on it.
    – istrasci
    Commented Sep 16, 2021 at 19:51
  • I guess English phrasal verbs are far more unpredictable.
    – sundowner
    Commented Sep 17, 2021 at 11:16

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There are two types of compound verbs: syntactic and lexical.

According to Compound Verb Lexicon, there are 30 syntactic compound verbs in Japanese. You can find the full list in the link (Click "Syntactic and Lexical Compound Verbs" on the left pane). 続ける and 始める belong to this category, so their meanings are straightforward regardless of what comes as the first verb. The meanings of most syntactic compound verbs are related to starting, ending, continuing, repeating, etc.

On the other hand, there are also thousands of lexical compound verbs, and it takes time to master them. They are called lexical because they are unpredictable and there is no clear rule (although there are weak tendencies which you can gradually notice). Basically you have to remember each combination one by one.

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