I'm currently reading a book called 'Quit' by Susan Cain, when I read the following passage:

A former UN peacekeeper, he once was ambushed in Somalia, yet I don't think he felt as scared then as I do now.

To me this sentence sounds really odd, I think it should be either:

A former UN peacekeeper once was ambushed


As former UN peacekeeper, he once was ambushed.

However a friend of mine argues that it is correct which is why I came to ask this question here.

  • 3
    The original is perfectly correct, perfectly idiomatic, and exceptionally common. If this is the very first time you encounter it, I can only encourage you to read more. Or even just watch more TV, for that matter. It is absolutely everywhere. Both your rewordings fail to say what the original sentence is saying. Your friend is correct, it is fine and should be left alone.
    – RegDwigнt
    Mar 1, 2019 at 11:58
  • Could you help me understand why this sentence is correct, because I can't seem to wrap my head around the reason why it would be correct as it sounds so odd to me.
    – Jip J
    Mar 1, 2019 at 12:18
  • I think there may be a preceding sentence here that might help for context. "My friend Doug had experienced a lot of stressful situations. -" but it looks ok to me. Your first example makes it seem it could be any UN peacekeeper, rather than the one being referred to as 'he'
    – Smock
    Mar 1, 2019 at 13:30
  • It's just a teeny bit weird. But then I'm not a published author, and I suspect you're not either.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 1, 2019 at 13:30

1 Answer 1


I find the sentence odd too, but not for its syntax. The logic is weird. Compare:

A former goalie for Chelsea, he once was thrown out of a game for giving the ref a piece of his mind, yet I don't think he was as angry then as I am now.

A former goalie for Chelsea is understood to be predicated of the subject of the main clause, he.

  • Where can I read more about the correctness of the syntax, beacause to me this sentence feels odd as well, admittedly less so than the original sentence.
    – Jip J
    Mar 1, 2019 at 12:15

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