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Lesson Transcript

Hi everybody! Hiroko here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common Japanese questions.
The question for this lesson is…If ~てくる(~te kuru) means “to begin to,” what’s the difference between ~てくる(~te kuru) and ~し始める(~shi hajimeru)?
~てくる(~te kuru) and ~し始める(~shi hajimeru) both relate to something starting, so how do you know which one to use?
The verb, ~てくる(~te kuru) has the verb 来る(kuru), “to come,” in it. That means that, while it may translate as “start” the nuance is that the action was not occurring in the past and essentially came to the present, and focuses on the change in state. For example, 雨が降ってきた(Ame ga futte kita.) can be translated as, “It started raining,” but the imagery is more like, it wasn’t raining in the past, and the rain “came” to the present. So, the focus is the change from not raining in the past to raining now.
On the other hand, with ~し始める(~shi hajimeru), the focus is on the starting point of the action and the past is not in the picture. It also implies that the action will continue for some time. For example, if we use the similar sentence, 雨が降り始めた(Ame ga furi hajimeta) it would also translate as, “It started raining,” but, the imagery would only focus on when the rain started and the likelihood of it continuing.
Let’s go through some examples so you can learn how to use ~てくる(~te kuru) and ~し始める(~shi hajimeru) correctly.
First, let’s do an example with ~てくる(~te kuru)--
最近、寒くなってきました。(Saikin, samuku natte kimashita.)
This phrase means, “It started to become colder./It’s been getting cold(er).” In this case, we can’t use ~し始める(~shi hajimeru) because it’s not talking about the starting point of the action. Rather, it’s talking about a change in state starting in the past.
Now, let’s do an example with ~し始める(~shi hajimeru) --
明日、論文を書き始めます。(Ashita, ronbun o kaki hajimemasu.)
This phrase means, “I'll start writing the thesis tomorrow.” Here, you are focusing on the start of the action of “writing,” which will happen tomorrow. That’s why, in this case, you need to use ~し始める(~shi hajimeru).
The key to understanding certain expressions in Japanese is point of view, as well as focus. In order to understand the difference between similar expressions, grasping the concept and building an image is helpful.
How was this lesson? Pretty interesting, right?
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll try to answer them!
またね![mata ne!] See you!