I have a question about the usage of "to start the season/week" in a couple of articles:

Article 1
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady announced on his Facebook page that he is no longer going to fight his four-game suspension stemming from Deflategate in the legal system. He will serve the suspension to start the season.

Article 2
The Dow rose 33.07 points, or 0.3 percent, to close at 12,878.20. It has not closed higher since May 19, 2008, four months before the financial crisis. The Dow is about 10 percent below its all-time high. The average fell 17 points to start the week.

Usually, the pattern "do actionX to do action Y" means actionX is performed in order to make actionY happen. But that is not quite the meaning in the two examples above. In the first article, the suspension would not be causing the season to start; it was more likely that the suspension was served at the start of the season. So, it is more like one event happening along side another, not cause-and-effect.

Same thing with the second example. The dow jones falling 17 points did not cause the week to start. It is more like in the first day or two of the week, the dow jones fell.

What do native speakers think? Could it be that the examples in the news articles were poorly written? Would the following rewrite:

...When the season starts, he will serve the suspension.
...At the start of the week, the average fell 17 points.

be better?

  • We will have soup to start the meal. Perfectly idiomatic. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jul 28 '16 at 9:43
  • 1
    He has a cup of coffee to start the day. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jul 28 '16 at 9:54

You are correct.

First example: "To start" is referring to Tom Brady, not the season. It's just a way of saying, "Tom Brady started off the season serving the suspension."

Second example: Same story. "Dow Jones started off the week..."


I believe you may be understanding start too narrowly, thinking of starting a car or starting a fire, that is, in the meaning to cause a thing that can run to run, or to initiate a progress in something that is capable of progressing. There it is causal. But it can also mean to begin to participate in an activity or in a process.

When the object of start is a time-phrase (the day, the week, the season, the year, etc), the infinitive phrase does not express causality as it does in "He rubbed two sticks together to start the fire"; rather it expresses the idea of commencing.

To start the day, he has a cup of coffee.

"The day" there is perceived not exclusively as a temporal idea but as a set of activities that one normally engages or participates in as part of "one's day".

He has a busy day ahead.

He begins the day with a cup of coffee.

The cup of coffee is an attendant circumstance.

The infinitive phrase "... to start the {time-phrase}" expresses the idea of circumstance attendant at the commencement of the time-period. If the actor has volition, like Brady but unlike the Dow Jones average, it can also implicate intention. It is not an accident that he starts the day with a cup of coffee.

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