I was reading a book and I noticed a strange sentence for me. "It was brave of you to help Arthur - and you a stranger". What does "you a stranger" mean? Is it a shortened "you are a stranger"?

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    It means 'even though you were a stranger to him'. The person who helped Arthur had not met him before. May 21, 2020 at 12:06
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    To expand on Kate's comment, it is also an indication of an idiolect of the speaker. It is not grammatically correct, but shows the kind of speech the character has.
    – kaipmdh
    May 21, 2020 at 13:28
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    Try reading it as an absolute construction, @kaipmdh. It's a loosely-attached noun phrase with a post-positive modifier. It's just that the post-postive doesn't happen to include a participle. May 21, 2020 at 13:47
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    It's normal. "Caught stealing! And you a policeman!" , "So you're pregnant - and you a nun!". May 21, 2020 at 14:25
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    See written instances of "exclamatory" and him a lawyer reflecting that even though sense. May 21, 2020 at 16:59

5 Answers 5


There is a missing but implied verb. You have the correct verb, but wrong tense.

"It was brave of you to help Arthur - and you [being] a stranger."

For full clarity, what the speaker is actually saying is:

"It was brave of you to help Arthur - and [even more brave with] you [being] a stranger [to him]."


It means in context the following :

You were brave to help considering 'you a stranger'

i.e. You are a stranger around here AND/Or You are a stranger to Arther.

ie. You have no friends or allies here to back you up. AND/Or You owed Arther nothing.


" A stranger " is a complement of " you " and together they an extension of the main sentence with a reinforcement of "help" from unexpected quarters.

To make it simple, we know verbs as well as prepositions take objects and when those objects are not complete by themselves, they take complements. Let me take the liberty to rewrite your sentence:

  • It was brave of you a stranger to help Arthur!

That completes the intended meaning but the tag in your sentence gains in intensity. However one may be inclined to call " a stranger " an appositive. But as it has no coma before ( , ) I'll go with the objective complement explanation.


They were explaining to the person how kind they were to help even though they were a stranger. As most strangers would choose not to help and go on with their day.

"You a stranger" is a quicker way of saying "You're a stranger", in most books (especially older books) if the character is of African descent/ black, they are usually talking in Ebonics, or slang.


A phrase to convey the message that they do not care about you and that you are insignificant to them. They wanted you to feel just like how you made them feel that they don’t mean anything to you.

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    I’ve tried to look at the statement from your point of view and can not see how this statement might be said in malice. It is a statement of praise. It implies that Arthur was helped by someone who did not have a vested interest in Arthur at possible peril to themselves. It sounds similar to the Story of the Good Samaritan. Now, if the person did not help Arthur, or helped Arthur for some selfish reason, or only helped because they knew Arthur, the statement can be taken as sarcasm.
    – Dean F.
    Jul 7, 2020 at 21:04

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