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A(fiancee): How nice of you. I don't know how to thank you.

B(other guy): Haha, no problem. I just want to take you home!

C(fiance): Hey! You sure are getting close to a man's fiancee!

Why do they put "a man's" before the fiancee? To my non-native eyes, it's very weird, and I've only found out this after 3 years since I started learning English. Shouldn't it be just "my fiancee" or "other man's fiancee" or "the fiancee"? What's the role of "a man's" here?

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When a male speaker says this kind of thing:

C(fiance): Hey! You sure are getting close to a man's fiancee! That man C is addressing his words to B(other guy).

He is referring to himself even though he says "man".

It is common in English to use this sort of thing. Here are some other examples of what looks like a general statement to another person that is actually referring to the speaker. I am not going to recreate an entire dialog, just the quip:

  • You certainly don't know how to show a girl's sister a good time! [for my sister]
  • They really love trying a lady's patience. [for my patience]
  • She can certainly make mincemeat of a man's heart. [for my heart]
  • Do you want to destroy a man's dream? [for my dream]

The word man is used in contrast to, say, a man's heart, a man's home, or something else that is identified as belonging to a man. It is used as a substitute for the more direct: my fiancée. The fiancée is seen as belonging to the man. When this structure is used, there is always a possessive like that.

This is not an AmE or BrE thing. It is a way of not saying something directly for any variety of reasons. In writing, the possessive like this is used quite frequently: a man's life, a woman's life, a woman's home, a woman's children.

[Please note: try someone's patience is an idiom that means testing someone's patience.]

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  • Thanks, I wanna ask something more if you don't mind. Is this usage also related to the ways of speaking in the black people such as "Can a brother get this?" which means "Could I have this"? I didn't even know what this meant when I heard it back then, but I get the sense this is the same case. – dolco Jan 29 '20 at 9:50
  • "Can a brother get this?" is the same usage. You refer to someone else to refer to yourself. [Please don't use wanna here. It's not written English. Thanks.] – Lambie Jan 29 '20 at 13:34
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"My fiancee" would work. It sounds more possessive, however, and emphasises C's specific personal relationship. As such it potentially implies that C has no problem with B courting other people's fiancees, the problem is only a problem because it's HIS fiancee. Using "a man's fiancee" ensures the problem is defined in the abstract: that A is getting close any man's fiancee. It depersonalises the situation, most likely with the side effect of making it seem more of a joke than a genuine threat.

Of your alternatives, "another man's fiancee" would work the same way as "a man's". "the fiancee" is too objectifying; in standard English it is probably considered rude to A, especially in her presence (although in some dialects, constructions like "the missus" are commonplace and inoffensive).

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