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He says to himself.

Is this grammatically valid? I'm sure it's not, but I'm having trouble saying precisely why.

The writer wanted to say:

He talks to himself.

as in a habitual behaviour of muttering or mumbling to oneself. Certainly 'talks to himself' is the accepted phrase in common English usage, but can we say that 'says to himself' is invalid?

My thoughts:

I believe that 'say' requires an object, as it is a transitive verb in nearly every usage - including the above example; 'himself' is the object of the preposition, meaning there is no object for the verb.

To be correct, this would have to be an actual quote or description of what is being said:

He says to himself, "...."

He says disturbing things to himself.

The person I was having this discussion with mentioned something about objects being optional in the presence of a prepositional phrase, but that doesn't make any sense to me. In the sentence, "She showed her guest to the door." the object of the verb (her guest) is in no way optional.

I get that some verbs have an accepted intransitive form that can be argued for a dropping an object in the presence of a propositional phrase, but I really don't think 'say' is one of those verbs.

Any help or comments would be greatly appreciated!
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Comments  (Page 2) 
Yes, it's grammatical. You may question its pragmatic application.