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I came across a line in a book:

The indigotin would be dissolved in vats of alkali to make a yellowish dye, indigo white. It was then ready for the dyers to begin work.

Begin work here sounds strange and sounds like headlinese, with work used as a mass noun. I thought begin to work would be more suitable. Is begin work here grammatical and unstilted/natural?

Also are "begin work on" and "begin working on" interchangeable?

To borrow an example from Anne Bogart's book

Every time I begin work on a new production I feel as though I am out of my league.

Can it be rewritten as

Every time I begin working on a new production I feel as though I am out of my league.

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    It sounds perfectly natural to this native US English speaker. It's using work as a noun. If you say "begin to work", you're using work as a verb, in which case it implies "it was ready for the dyers to begin to work the indigo white" which is a little odd. – stangdon Apr 7 '18 at 1:19
  • @stangdon - I think more generally you can say "I begin X." where X is a verb in noun form. For most verbs, this is the infinitive form. i.e. "I begin swimming. I begin landing. I begin cooking.". Work seems to be a special exception here, and in fact "Begin working." sounds odd to me, as "working" is not the noun form of the verb. – Myridium Apr 7 '18 at 2:11
  • @Myridium Yeah, that's weird. I can't think of another example like "begin work" that isn't a gerund or infinitive, so I'm going to have to guess it's an idiomatic expression not bound by expected grammar rules. – Andrew Apr 7 '18 at 14:57
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    @Myridium - swimming/landing/cooking are gerund forms, though, not infinitive. One certainly can say "working" as a noun form, although it means something a little different from "work", like "The working of the metal takes hours". – stangdon Apr 10 '18 at 15:59
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Yes, both are correct. No, it doesn't make any logical sense.

Take play. It seems identical to work in every respect—except for how it can be used.

Both of these parallel constructions are incorrect:

Every time I begin play on baseball I feel as though I'm out of my league.
Every time I begin playing on baseball I feel as though I'm out of my league.

Instead, these are correct:

Every time I begin to play baseball I feel as though I'm out of my league.
Every time I begin playing baseball I feel as though I'm out of my league.

And, at the same time, these, while perhaps not outright incorrect, sound odd and would normally be rephrased:

Every time I begin to work a new production I feel as though I'm out of my league.
Every time I begin working a new production I feel as though I'm out of my league.

That these two words, that are identical in every other way, differ in this respect indicates to me a usage that goes beyond strict rules of grammar.

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For me I would say

Every time I begin working on a new production I feel as though I am out of my league.
(use of gerund)

or

Every time I begin to work on a new production I feel as though I am out of my league.
(use of to-infinitive)

or maybe

Every time I begin my work on a new production I feel as though I am out of my league.
(use of work as a noun)

As for @JasonBassford's concern whether "on" is needed, I believe that the use of prepositions are based on the verbs immediately in front, (i.e. play and work) instead of "begin". This logic might be a bit strange, to me at least.

Mr Bassford is correct, we wouldn't normally say " to play on" something (when the something is the thing you play with or simply play), but "to work on" something is definitely far from rare, not to say whether it is possible or grammatically correct.

Hope this helps!

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