Påbörjar? vs börjar, I guess
So I was just trying to pick up a book in Swedish (I'm just diving into the deep end, don't mind me), and one of the first words in the book is "påbörjar." Now, google translate tells me that this word means "start," but I already know that the very similar word, "börjar," also means "start"?? I tried to google if there's a difference, but the results are, of course, in Swedish. Which I can't read. So, can someone explain, is there actually something going on with "påbörjar," or am I totally overthinking and it's just like some of those weird words we have in English where two really similar words mean the same thing?
These are the main differences:
- påbörja requires an object. You cannot just say "Jag har påbörjat"
- påbörja is used directly with nouns: Jag har påbörjat en bok (no preposition in between)
- börja can be used without an object: it's correct to say Jag har börjat.
- When used with a noun, börja needs a preposition. Jag har påbörjat projektet but Jag har börjat på projektet or Jag har börjat med projektet.
- börja is used with verbs: Vi började läsa. If you want to use påbörja instead, you must change the verb into an abstract noun: Vi påbörjade läsningen literally 'We began the reading'.
- påbörja is somewhat formal
Seeing how many results I got, it seems even Swwdish native speakers don't quite agree on the difference. For example, one result suggested that påbörja can only be used in front of nouns, but another result provided an example where påbörja was use in front of a verb. The one thing they seem to agree on is that you should påbörja when talking about starting a project and that also fits with the translation given in my Swedish-German dictionary. In addition, it was suggested that påbörja is more used in legal and academic texts. But yes, they mostly mean the same thing.
Could you give the whole sentence/context in the book?
I agree there are a lot of less useful answers around; I've tried to give a better one in my comment on this page. påbörja really isn't used with verbs, so if you found an example of that, it was probably a participle, not a real verb.
'Påbörja' means 'börja med' or sometimes 'starta'. Three things should be noticed.
It is somewhat more formal.
It often used when that which is started is interrupted and not finished.
It's not always possible to simply replace 'börja med' with 'påbörja'.
''Påbörja'' is a good way to begin to understand a ''particle'' verb. You can separate the ''på-'' part(icle) and write a sentence like ''Jag börjar på med att göra mina läxor.'' which I believe is logically equivalent to ''Jag påbörjar mina läxor.'' ''I am beginning to do my homework.'' contains the intent of starting to do something, not just starting something. Google ''particle verbs in Swedish'' for more detailed information.
Although you can translate very well using google translate, if you go to svenska.se to look up a word, you access the most powerful dictionary resource for the Swedish language. It is all in Swedish, so you may want to use this resource along with google translate.
Actually it's not a very good place to start thinking about particle verbs, since if you take it apart, in many (most?) cases you don't get a particle, you get a preposition. Du påbörjar en bok -> Du börjar på en bok : here på is a preposition. The particle verb börja på is somewhat colloquial and not one of the most common ones. And Jag börjar på med mina läxor doesn't exactly mean Jag påbörjar mina läxor, a closer rewrite of the second would be Jag börjar med/på mina läxor and the version with the particle verb börjar på has a different lexical aspect (Aktionsart) that creates a different nuance of meaning (≈starting "a little").
It is not uncommon that verbs that look like this can reveal themselves as containing either a preposition or a particle in different cases, but if you want to start looking at particle verbs, I think it would be better to look at something simpler, more common, or more typical.