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In the sentence:

He considered himself wise.

I would parse this as

He - subject
considered - transitive verb
himself - direct object
wise = object complement adjective

My kids ask me why himself is not a predicate noun. I am not sure how to answer them except that considered is not a linking verb and you need a linking verb to have a predicate noun/adjective.

It still doesn't make sense to them. Is there a rule or just common knowledge about reflexive pronouns that can help me out?

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    A way to tell an Object from a Pred N is by changing the sentence from active to passive voice. Change "himself" to "her": He considered her wise. Now it's clear "her" is the object of the "considering", and therefore it can be the subject of a passive sentence: She was considered wise. Now change "her" to "himself" back again and you'll see "himself" is the object of the "considering". It can't be the subject of a passive because of semantic limitations, but it would be technically possible to say He was considered wise by himself. I think that's a nice way to explain it to children. – Yay Feb 18 '16 at 18:48
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I agree with your parsing, and no, there’s nothing special about reflexive pronouns here, other than that they can't normally be predicate nouns. "Himself" is the object of the transitive verb "consider" so it can’t also be a predicate noun. You’re right to tell them that "consider" is not a linking verb, and you could also add that a predicate noun/adjective can occur with both linking verbs and transitive ones:

He seems a fool /untrustworthy. (linking verb, complement relates to subject)

He considers himself/Ed a scholar/trustworthy. (transitive verb, complement relates to object)

  • @audrahaddad To add to my answer, there are actually a couple of possibilities (both idiomatic) for a reflexive to be a predicate noun: in the idiomatic I'm not (feeling) myself today with the sense of "I'm not feeling completely well" or "I'm not in good spirits", and in You should just try to be yourself with the meaning of "You should just try to act naturally". – BillJ Feb 18 '16 at 20:08

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