reflexive not used? No.2

This is another question related to the previous one.

As you may have noticed, Swan claims that (a) is wrong. Again, I believe we have a sentence like (b):

(a) His book is selling itself well.

(b) His book is selling itself.

Here's my take:

"The ____ sells itself" is an idiomatic expression. "His book is selling itself well" is not wrong, but would be a very unusual construction. "His book sells itself well" would be more common.

I also think "The book sells itself" is also fine. But that doesn't mean that the book stands up, offers itself for sale, and takes the money when it's sold. It means that the book is so good that when someone at the store reads the beginning or hears how good it is they want to buy it. There are similar expressions about other objects, like "this car sells itself."

As a matter of fact, the problem with (a) is the adverb "well", IMHO.

Correct me if I am wrong, please.



Original Post

Hi, Freeguy,

Swan is right that "His book is selling itself well" is wrong. And you are right that you can correctly say, "His book is selling itself," and that the problem with the sentence that Swan rejects is the use of the adverb "well."

Sentences like "His book is selling itself," "The book will sell itself," etc., mean that the seller does not have to make any real efforts to sell the thing. If he puts the book out, someone will buy it.

The sentence "His book is selling itself" and other sentences like it do not mean the book is selling something, let alone itself. Books aren't salespeople; books are books. Salespeople don't have to try hard to sell a book that "sells itself."

You are wrong in thinking that "His book is selling itself well" is not wrong and in thinking that "His book sells itself well" is somehow better. Both sentences are wrong and should not be used.

Omit "well" and all will be well.

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