Here are some dictionary examples:

mit einer Arbeit anfangen (start a piece of work)

mit dem Rauchen anfangen/ aufhören (pick up / give up smoking)

mit dem Trainig anfangen/beginnen (start the training programme)

I am wondering in what sense is mit used in here with these verbs anfangen, beginnen and aufhören.

Let me elaborate my question a bit more: anfangen/beginnen can govern an akkusative object as well as mit etwas.


eine Arbeit anfangen/beginnen~ mit einer Arbeit anfangen/beginnen

With the transitive construction sufficing to convey the meaning, why do we need the preposition mit in the alternative construction? I am looking for justification for this mit etwas construct and the most expected justification, from my point of view, is one in terms of meaning: the function by mit in rendering the meaning of the phrases.

  • 1
    There is no particular sense that "mit" brings to the table in this construction other than signalling "this noun is the topic of that verb". The sense could just as well be expressed as a direct object, and in fact "eine Arbeit anfangen" is a valid alternative construction. Commented Apr 4, 2017 at 7:54
  • Kilian's comment should have been posted as an answer. It is the correct answer to the question, short and precise. Commented Apr 4, 2017 at 8:57
  • Could you somehow get your computer to produce double quotes?
    – Carsten S
    Commented Apr 4, 2017 at 15:56

2 Answers 2


What do you start? What do you stop? »mit« refers to it.

Womit fängst du an? Mit einer Arbeit.

Womit fängst du an oder hörst du auf? Mit dem Rauchen.

Womit fängst du an oder beginnst du? Mit dem Training.

In all of this cases »mit« can be omitted by using a transitive construction:

Was fängst du an? Eine Arbeit.

Was fängst du an oder hörst du auf? Das Rauchen.

Was fängst du an oder beginnst du? Das Training.

But there are cases where »mit« is needed, e. g.:

Ich muss Schrauben und Werkzeuge sortieren. Ich beginne mit Schrauben.

The unusual clause »Ich beginne Schrauben« has no meaning.


I would (loosely) translate the phrases above as "Verb with Noun."

German uses "mit" a bit more than English uses "with," in this case, to emphasis the interactive nature of the above actions. In this context, you can use mit or "with" as a substitute for "regarding."

In fact, other than for emphasis, the "mit" is superfluous. If you take it out, verb-direct object constructions with only the resulting verb-noun pairs also work.

To use your examples:

mit einer Arbeit anfangen, (start with work).

Alternative:Arbeit anfangen.

mit dem Rauchen anfangen/ aufhören (pick up / give up with smoking).

Alternative: Rauchen angfangen/aufhören.

mit dem Training anfangen/beginnen (start with the training programme).

Alternative:Training beginnen.

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