Learn English – Open vs Open Itself


Recently I read sentence like

 '... section opens with {{^section}} ...'

Here, I guess the verb open does not require ITSELF (just open instead of open itself). Is it some group of verbs OPEN belongs to?

Best Answer

I guess the verb open does not require ITSELF

And it couldn't, because it doesn't open itself.

Relevant senses of open here are:

trans. orig. Sc. To set in action, initiate (a proceeding or enterprise); to cause to begin or commence; spec. †to declare (war) (obs.); to set up (a loan); to create (a file of correspondence) on a subject or person.

intr. To begin, start; to commence operations. Also (spec. of a literary production, etc.) with with.

trans. To begin (an event) formally or officially.

There's more in the same sub-entry, never mind the same word, but they do to show what's happening here.

The abbreviation with this particular dictionary intr. and trans. (other dictionaries will use different abbreviations) mean intransitive and transitive.

The transitivity of a verb is how many objects it takes, which is hence part of its valency; how many objects and subjects it takes.

An intransitive verb does not take an object in the active voice: "The play opened".

A transitive verb takes at least one object in the active voice: "The actor opened the play".

We cannot say "the actor opened" in the same voice with the same sense of "open", we're left wondering "the actor opened what?".

Similarly, there can't be an object of opened in the sense that has the play as a subject, "the play opened itself" does not make sense.

There are further variations on these points, such as who the passive voice changes a transitive to an intransitive ("the play was opened"), ditransitive verbs that can more than one object ("Alice gave Bob the book" has two objects), and some that are ambitransitive, meaning they can be used both with and without an object ("Alice knitted", "Bob knitted a scarf").

For a bit of a recap, consider open in the sense of a door:

The door opened. (Intransitive).

He opened the door. (Transitive).

The reflexive pronouns (myself, yourself, itself) is used with a transitive verb for a case where the object and subject happen to be the same thing. This doesn't make sense with "The play opened itself", because those senses of open that can meaningfully have play as a subject can't as an object, and vice versa. We could in contrast have "the door opened itself", because an automatic door can be both the thing that opens and the thing that was opened in exactly the same sense of open.