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I have a question about the difference between verb "start" and verb phrase "start up". According to these definitions for "start" and "start up" in this dictionary, these sentences:

1a. The rain started.
1b. The rain started up.
2a. The engine started.
2b. The engine started up.

, are pretty much the same. But to native speakers, does "start up" have some other meaning not captured by "start" and vice versa ?

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Start up has more of an implication that you are "turning something on" or that some effort or process is being taken to start something. Engines typically undergo some effort to start even if all you do is turn a key, so start up is often used. Although you can always use just start and never be incorrect.

If something takes some time to get fully started, start up can have that implication too. Such as waiting for an old computer to start up.

For rain, this can mean that it wasn't raining one moment, and then all of a sudden it was significantly raining. As though someone "turned it on."

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As a native English speaker, I would differentiate between the two as follows:

The rain started: it was not raining before, but now it is. In this instance, I feel it is more natural to say "It started raining", however.

The rain started up: it was raining lightly, but now it's raining harder.

For the engine instance, I don't think there's much of a difference in the usage. For me, however, I feel that saying "the engine started up" would imply that it may have taken a bit of effort to make it happen, because the engine was in less than optimal condition.

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