What is the status of herself in the following sentence?

Mary behaved herself during the class.

Is herself an internal argument? I'm a bit confused.

  • 2
    Behave oneself is an English idiom meaning to not call attention to oneself by performing inappropriate actions. Behave yourself now! is what you say to children and alcoholic adults before entering a party site. As an idiom chunk, you can call the reflexive anything you want; "internal argument" is a nice question-begging term.
    – jlawler
    Nov 8, 2022 at 16:24
  • Thank you for the explanatory comment! I was wondering what is the well-accepted analysis of reflexives of inherently reflexive verbs.
    – Buffoon
    Nov 9, 2022 at 1:43
  • 1
    What other "inherently reflexive verbs" are there? All the other examples I can think of are ordinary transitives, that can take an object. Sometimes when the object is reflexive they have a special meaning, but they are not like behave which is otherwise intransitive.
    – Colin Fine
    Nov 10, 2022 at 16:30
  • 1
    @Colin Fine. While English has many fewer of them than related languages (e.g. German, French), there are nevertheless a number of them that can be acknowledged, e.g. perjure oneself, be oneself, be beside oneself, feel oneself, ingratiate oneself to, content oneself with, enjoy oneself, etc. Nov 11, 2022 at 5:57
  • 1
    @Xia.Yili, If the number of predicates that behave in the way described is large enough, it becomes a category of predicate rather than just a loose collection of idiosyncratic expressions. The relevant point in this area concerns the frequent occurrence of these necessarily reflexive predicates in other languages. There are many many more of them in languages related to English. For me, it is therefore a category of predicate that can and should be acknowledged. Nov 12, 2022 at 13:22


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.