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How would you say He started to speak?

Would that be Li komencis paroli?

In other languagues there is normally a particle next to the infinitive form: he started to speak (English); comenzó a hablar (Spanish); er fing an, zu sprechen (German).

How would it be with the verb fini?

  • I suppose it's Slavic influence. Both Russian начал говорить and Polish zaczął mówić are past tense verb + infinitive, and IIRC these languages shaped Esperanto just as much as English, German and French. – La Vo-o Feb 1 '18 at 7:41
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Yes, you just say komencis paroli with no extra particle. If you search for this in the Tekstaro there are many examples, such as this one from Zamenhof’s translation of Andersen’s fables:

Nun unu el la burĝoj komencis paroli pri la terura pesto, kiu furiozis antaŭ kelke da jaroj

It’s the same for fini. Here is an example from Gerda Malaperis.

Gerda sentas sin pli bone. Ŝi ĵus finis manĝi.

I think the only time where you would translate the to before an infinitive in English is when it could be replaced with “in order to”. In that case you can add por before the infinitive. For example “I jumped to avoid the car” could become:

Mi saltis por eviti la aŭton.

  • In the case of paroli, wouldn't perhaps li ĉesis paroli be a slightly better fit? – La Vo-o Feb 1 '18 at 7:43
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    @LaVo-o I think they’d have slightly different meanings. To my mind finis paroli means the person said everything they wanted to say and stopped, whereas ĉesis paroli might mean they realised they were talking too much and stopped before finishing. – Neil Roberts Feb 1 '18 at 7:48
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  • Li ekparolis
  • Li komencis paroli

Of course ekparoli is far better, but an infinitive is fine too.

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    Why would you say that ekparoli is far better? They mean different things. The best wording depends on what you are trying to say. – Tomaso Alexander Feb 1 '18 at 17:01
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    @TomasoAlexander Yes, though with the same meaning, ek stresses a point in time, whereas komencis could be a duration. "far better" is not really what I meant; ekparoli is more better display of language power, using Esperanto to its fullest. Possible for "start to read" = eklegi, "start to write" = ekskribi. Definite for "stand up" = ekstari, "sit down" = eksidi, "fall asleep" = ekdormi. – Joop Eggen Feb 1 '18 at 17:20
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    "Mia filino komencis paroli de tre frua agxo." -- "Mi ne scias kiu li estas. Li simple iris al la mikrofono kaj ekparolis." – Tomaso Alexander Feb 3 '18 at 22:23
  • @TomasoAlexander very good examples. – Joop Eggen Feb 5 '18 at 8:16
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If the purpose of the question is to find a parallel in a national language, consider that the infinitive in Esperanto often corresponds to the -ing form in English: he started speaking.

This rule of thumb often works with other verbs.

  • He finished speaking - li finis paroli.
  • He considered speaking - li pripensis paroli

The tricky part is to know when you do need a little word (like por) - but that's answered here:

When should "por" be used before an infinitive (i-verbo)?

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