I am wondering whether there is any difference in meaning between this two patterns:

  1. etwas beginnen
  2. mit etwas beginnen

For example, do the following two phrases impart the same meaning?

eine Arbeit beginnen
mit einer Arbeit beginnen

Actually I am even unsure of the exact meaning of Arbeit in these two examples. Does it mean

  • piece of work (Tätigkeit)
  • job (Arbeitsplatz)

Many Thanks !!

3 Answers 3


Basically I see no difference in the meaning of etwas beginnen und mit etwas beginnen. It can be used with identical meaning. In a second thought, etwas beginnen seems a little bit larger when directly compared, but this is more a tendency.

Also mit etwas beginnen can - with appropriate context - be used in the sense of a sequence mit waschen beginnen und dann entspannen (starting with washing and then relaxing).

Arbeit in your example can indeed be

  • a job
  • a piece of work
  • a creation (a bachelor thesis would also be "eine Arbeit")

Mainly you can

(1) etwas beginnen
(eine Rede beginnen = to start a speech)

(2) mit etwas beginnen
(mit dem Training beginnen = to start with the training)

(3) als etwas beginnen
(In unserer Abteilung hat er sofort als Chef begonnen. =
In our section he has started as a boss immediately.)

A use case of (1) is usually also a use case of (2) and vice versa.

(1) as (2): mit einer Rede beginnen (to start with a speech)

(2) as (1): das Training beginnen (to start the training)

Here is a case for (2) but not for (1):

Mit meinem Brötchen beginne ich morgens immer erst nach dem Kaffee.
(I start eating my roll in the morning always after the coffee.)

»Mein Brötchen beginne ich morgens immer erst nach dem Kaffee« sounds odd, lacks a final verb element like »zu essen« or »zu streichen«.

And here is a case for (1) but not for (2):

Hört auf zu atmen, wenn die Schlote zu rauchen beginnen.
(Stop breathing when the chimneys start belching fumes.)

»Hört auf zu atmen, wenn die Schlote mit dem Rauchen beginnen« sounds like chimneys consuming tobacco.

Concerning your example: »eine Arbeit beginnen« and »mit einer Arbeit beginnen« are both valid and mean the same where »Arbeit« may be a job or a piece of work. However, for a job the first expression may be favoured, though »eine Arbeitsstelle antreten« and »eine Arbeit aufnehmen« would be more suitable.

  • "Mit meinem Brötchen beginne ich morgens immer erst nach dem Kaffee." - why not further minimize this example like the others? "mit einem Brötchen beginnen" vs. "ein Brötchen beginnen"? Mar 17, 2017 at 5:54
  • @O. R. Mapper: Wouldn't be a fault to do so, but I want to add the context eating explicitly, because »mit einem Brötchen beginnen« could also mean throwing e. g. [at wife or politician: first a roll, later tomatoes].
    – Pollitzer
    Mar 17, 2017 at 7:17
  • @Politzer: But that's the same with the other examples. For instance, "mit einer Rede beginnen" can either refer to giving or to writing the speech (or even to watching, analyzing, or discussing it). My concern is rather that the more arbitrary context you add to an example, the less clear it becomes which part of the example is arbitrary and which part makes it the example that it is. Mar 17, 2017 at 7:43
  • @O. R. Mapper: Justifiable viewpoint, feel free to edit.
    – Pollitzer
    Mar 17, 2017 at 8:28

The meanings are very similar, differences are hard to describe.

  • etwas beginnen
    is: to start/begin something
  • mit etwas beginnen
    is: to start/begin with something

An Example:

A man in a clean white coat is standing in font of a white canvas, holding a palette and a brush in his hands. He could say:

  1. Ich beginne jetzt mit meinem ersten Bild.
  2. Ich beginne jetzt das erste Bild.
  3. Ich beginne jetzt mit dem Malen.
  4. Ich beginne jetzt zu malen.

Translations of those sentences:

  1. I start now with my first picture.
    The part "mit meinem ersten Bild" is a Präpositionalobjekt You can ask for this part of speech with "womit" (»Womit beginne ich jetzt?« - »mit meinem ersten Bild«). A Präpositionalobjekt is an object, that doesn't stand in one of the four grammatical cases, but it starts with a preposition ("mit"). This Präpositionalobjekt consists of a preposition and a Dativobjekt (dative object). The Dativobjekt is "meinem ersten Bild" and contains two attributive adjectives and a noun.
  2. I begin the first picture now.
    The part "das erste Bild" is an Akkusativobjekt (object in accusative case) which consists of an article, an attributive adjective and a noun. You can ask for it with »wen« (if it is a person) or »was« (otherwise): »Wen oder was beginne ich jetzt?« - »Das erste Bild«.
  3. I start painting now.
    Like in (1) the part »mit dem Malen« again is a Präpositionalobjekt, and again it consists of the preposition mit and a Dativobjekt. The dative object consists of an article and something that looks like a noun. Technically this really is a noun (so it must be capitalized), but is derived from a verb. It is a »substantiviertes Verb« (nominalized verb).
  4. I start to paint now.
    »Zu malen« is a Infinitivgruppe. There is no noun in it. It consists of the particle »zu« and an infinitive verb.

If you use it together with Arbeit, Arbeit can mean both, a task and a job (you can begin both). This depends on the context, but I think in most cases it is task.

  • Note "Ich beginne das Bild" can only mean I start painting. "Ich beginne mit dem ersten Bild" could mean paint, but also examine, burn or buy,....
    – tofro
    Mar 11, 2017 at 17:30

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