I am reading a novel linked below and there is a phrase the meaning of which is not entirely clear to me. To provide a little context, the phrase refers to the 12 year old girl Xiaofu, who has just confessed she is in love with her brother and her brother has replied "me too". The phrase itself reads:


Does it mean she knew that she was neatly dressed that day, or does it mean that she put her love life neatly in order? I think the second can't be correct, but for the first one I also don't understand, why passive voice was used. The protagonist is 12. Surely she wasn't dressed by someone else! My best guess at a translation would be:

knowing that she was neatly groomed that day, she turned around more emboldened for him to behold.

For context, the rest of the passage, which I think I understand, reads:

小芙撇了撇嘴,突然柔声说道:“炯,我很喜欢你呀!” 炯害羞地低着头。半晌,他抬头看妹妹,点了点头,用轻微得连他自己都难以听到的声音说:“我也是。” 小芙快乐得一下子跳了起来,沿着山坡疯跑。跑到山谷底下站住了,知道那天自己被收拾得干净漂亮,便大胆地回过头来,让他看。

If anyone wants even more context, here's a link to the relevant section of the novel, the entire work can be read there.

  • 1
    她自己被自己收拾... (she was tidied up by herself) would be logically correct, and the doer of the action (自己 in this case)can generally be omitted
    – user6065
    Commented Jul 14, 2017 at 18:12
  • It is not illogical to have someone else to tidy her up- For example: her mother, a beautician or a servant if she had one would groom her)
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Jul 14, 2017 at 18:36
  • comment#1assumes based on OP's statement that person was dressed by herself (besides users might be under the impression that action takes place in a single family setting sister and brother being in the same home all the time, and if so. else did the tidying up it would be part of the narrative), of course taking sentence at face value it means s.o. else did the tidying up.
    – user6065
    Commented Jul 14, 2017 at 22:15

3 Answers 3


It is not illogical to have someone else to tidy her up- For example: her mother, a beautician or a servant if she had one would groom her

If you wrote: "他在学校被欺负得很可憐" (he was bullied in school pitifully) you knew the subject must be the object's classmates. '他' is the object

In "她自己被收拾得干净漂亮" (she herself was tidied up neatly and beautifully -) , you can safely presume it was her mother or older sister who tidied her up.

The object '她自己 (She herself)' in the sentence was only a twelve years old girl. What did she know about beautification?

  • So, you suggest it was probably someone else? Because I will have to translate this snippet in my review...
    – Ludi
    Commented Jul 14, 2017 at 19:03
  • 1
    Just picture a loving mother weaving pigtails for her daughter, or a big sister applying make-up for her kid sister.
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Jul 14, 2017 at 19:09


The author left out the subjects because they are very obvious. The sentence will be easy to be understood if we add them back as follows.


她 she
知道 know
那天 that day
她 she
自己 herself (not another girl)
被收拾得 be put in order
干净 clean
漂亮 beautiful

(She) (knows that) (that day) (she) (herself) (was neatened clean and beautiful)

She knows that she herself was neatened clean and beautiful that day.
She knows that she was neatened clean and beautiful that day.

收拾 means 整理 - to put things in order; to order; to tidy; to neaten. For example, to clean the face, to comb the hair, to sort the clothes, etc.
It does not necessarily mean to apply cosmetics or to put on another more beautiful clothes.

  • Yes, but who did it? Xiaofu, or someone else?
    – Ludi
    Commented Jul 15, 2017 at 13:25
  • Someone else did it because it is a passive clause. Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 4:23

that day is the wedding day.xiaofu will be overdressed/dressed up(收拾) as a bride.The 收拾 means 'dress up' as a dialect expression in somewhere of china.

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