What is the difference between 'start out' and 'start'? Is it correct to say 'you should start in the first gear' instead of 'you should start out in the first gear' or 'she started out cooking dinner two days ago instead of 'she started cooking dinner two days ago'and even The gunshot started out the ducks' instead of 'The gunshot started the ducks' etc.
Hello K.O.

1. You should start in first gear = you should begin in first gear.

2. You should start out in first gear = you should begin your journey/begin driving in first gear.

3. She started out cooking dinner two days ago.

— This sounds odd. I can't think of a context.

4. She started cooking dinner two hours ago = she began cooking dinner two hours ago.

5. The gunshot started out the ducks = the gunshot flushed out the ducks.

6. The gunshot started the ducks = as #5.

"started the ducks"? "started out the ducks"?
Neither sounds meaningful to me.
Did you mean "startled the ducks"?

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Yes, I wondered about "startle" too; but I think "start" means "cause an animal to break cover", in this context. I suppose adding "out" makes the sense of "breaking cover" more vivid.

Hi, and no I meant 'start' literally. Mr Pedantic thanks for your reply.
I'm afraid that "meaning it literally" is of no help here. If there's a meaning of "start" that means "startle an animal into movement", then I suppose that's what you mean literally. But even if there is such a meaning, the idea of "starting ducks" in that sense must be extremely rare.

Unless you really mean it in that rare sense, the words don't mean anything. You can 'start a machine' or 'start a car' or 'start the lawnmower', etc.(cause it to begin to function), but you can't start an animal (cause it to begin to function).

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I think you usually send in a spaniel to "start" game. I suppose it's connected to the "get up quickly" meaning of "start", e.g. "he started up".

Useful if you intend to go on a shooting party, during a visit to the UK.

Hi Calif Jim,

Yes it was in that rare sense of 'start'. I particularly choose it to find out if it is possible 'even in such a rare sense' to use not 'start' but 'start out' instead. And MrP'reply hints that it is. At least so I concluded.