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I was looking at the usage of the verb "start" online, and while doing this, some questions arose in my mind about it. My first question is about (1)"to start on somebody" and (2)"to start on something".
Although I found their meaning online, but I guess I couldn't get a clear picture of what exactly they meant.
After googling them, I found:

"To start on somebody" means "to criticize someone, to rebuke someone, or to complain to someone about something annoying that they did or are doing". For example: Don't start on me! I did nothing wrong! (Here, does "start on" mean "Don't rebuke me or criticize me"?)


The meaning of "to start on something", I read, was "to begin to use something or to being to deal with something". For example: 1. When did your baby start on solid food?, 2. I thought we would have lunch before starting on the cleaning, 3. She ate all the cakes, and then started on the chocolates.

My question, here, is that can't we just use "start" in examples (1), (2), and (3)? Does the preposition "on" give special meanings to it?


Thank you!

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Laborious"To start on somebody" means "to criticize someone, to rebuke someone, or to complain to someone about something annoying that they did or are doing". For example: Don't start on me! I did nothing wrong! (Here, does "start on" mean "Don't rebuke me or criticize me"?)

Right. Whenever you feel that someone is about to criticize or complain, as is their typical behavior, you can say "Don't start!" or "Don't start on me!"

Leave out "on me" if they are about to launch into a long speech about their favorite topic (usually political), and you don't want to hear it again for the hundredth time. Say just "Don't start!" or "Don't start that again!"

You can only use these kinds of sentences when you are already aware of the habits of this person. You already know that they tend to complain or argue or speechify based on a lot of previous experience you have had with them.

These expressions are only used with people you know very well — family or very close friends.

CJ

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LaboriousThe meaning of "to start on something", I read, was "to begin to use something or to being to deal with something". For example:
1. When did your baby start on solid food?,
2. I thought we would have lunch before starting on the cleaning,
3. She ate all the cakes, and then started on the chocolates.

My question, here, is that Can't we just use "start" in examples (1), (2), and (3)? Does the preposition "on" give special meanings to it?

start solid food or start the chocolates sounds unidiomatic to us native speakers. We are used to starting a car (making it begin to function), where we can hear the motor suddenly spring into action, but food, including chocolates, doesn't seem to us something that we would start. The food isn't going to jump into motion suddenly because we started it. We are actually starting on the activity of consuming the food, not making the food do something.

start the cleaning is more subtly different from starting on the cleaning. You might use either of those expressions. To my ear, the first gives the impression that you're going to do all of the cleaning in one session, while the second (with 'on') gives the impression that you're going to do some of the cleaning now but the rest of it later, maybe even another day. Opinions may vary on this point.

Another way we express this is to make a start on (the cleaning / the washing up / etc.). on cannot be omitted in this expression.

CJ

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Thank you for the explanation, teacher! I appreciate your help!

I'd like to ask a few more things, if I may, please.

1. Let's get out of the room before it starts grandpa starts on us again! (Situation: We are watching a TV serial which grandpa doesn't like us to watch.) Is this a correct sentence in the situation I gave?

2. Now who/what has started your grandpa again? [To start somebody (on someone). Situation: Grandpa came into the room before we could leave, and he saw us watching that TV serial. We, to avoid listening to grandpa's same lecture, go to another room, where mom says that sentence. Would that sentence be correct this situation?]

3. To start somebody on something, for example a topic. Is this structure possible, sir?

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CalifJimMy question, here, is that Can't we just use "start"

When you get some free time, could you tell me why that sentence is incorrect?

Can we correct that by using one of these?

- My question is that if we can use...

- My question is that whether we can use...

- My question is: Can we use... ?

Laborious1. Let's get out of the room before it starts grandpa starts on us again! (Situation: We are watching a TV serial which grandpa doesn't like us to watch.) Is this a correct sentence in the situation I gave?

Yes, as shown. I think you have a typo there. I don't think you meant "it starts grandpa starts".

Laborious2. Now who/what has started your grandpa again? [To start somebody (on someone). Situation: Grandpa came into the room before we could leave, and he saw us watching that TV serial. We, to avoid listening to grandpa's same lecture, go to another room, where mom says that sentence. Would that sentence be correct this situation?]

From this question I see that you really did mean "it starts grandpa starts" in the first question. No, you can't do that.

In the expression, "Grandpa started on us", you might say that Grandpa started himself when he saw you watching that serial on TV. Nothing started him. Nobody started him. He just started to complain and lecture. We don't say "Grandpa started himself on us", though. We just say "Grandpa started on us". Your mother might say, "What made Grandpa start on you again?" And the answer is "He saw us watching that serial on TV".

Laborious3. To start somebody on something, for example a topic. Is this structure possible, sir?

For that it's "to get someone started (on something)".

When we go to visit the Johnson family tomorrow, whatever you do, don't get them started on politics, or we'll be there all night.

This is a caution not to bring up any topics that are political in nature because the Johnsons love to talk at great length about such things, giving all their political opinions to anyone who will listen.

CJ

CalifJimI think you have a typo there
Yes. I made a mistake in typing. It had to be "... before it starts grandpa on us." Anyway, I've got answers to the questions that I asked. Thanks a lot for that.
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LaboriousCalifJim My question, here, is that Can't we just use "start" When you get some free time, could you tell me why that sentence is incorrect?

Ah. I forgot to tell you about that.

It's incorrect because of the use of 'that' before a question. It's ungrammatical to put 'that' before questions (both direct and indirect).

So you can't put 'that' before a question word:

I wonder that how many children she has.
Do you know that what her name is?
The question is that who put this letter on the table.

This includes 'if' and 'whether' when they introduce an indirect yes-no question:

Sally asked that whether Tom was invited to the party.
Brian doesn't know that if he'll be able to be there on time.
Nobody was able to guess that whether Andersen would win the election.

Laborious

Can we correct that by using one of these?

- My question is that if we can use...

- My question is that whether we can use...

- My question is: Can we use... ?

You can use these:

My question is whether we can use ...
My question is this: Can we use ...?
Question: Can we use ...?

'if' is inferior to 'whether' in the context above, so it will sound a little off to use My question is if we can use ...— even though it's correct.

Also, we don't usually put a colon after just part of a sentence, as in My question is: so I don't recommend that.


However, you are in fact asking a question, so it's a little strange to say that you're asking a question before you ask it. My advice is just to ask the question.

Can we use ...? / Can't we use ...?

It's much better to ask Is this correct? than to state My question is whether this is correct. Why waste your time typing all that? Emotion: wink

CJ