Grammar: Appositive

Posted December 13, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

A single word or a phrase, appositives modify a noun by providing more information about the noun. It could be identifying, explaining, describing, and more.

Such information is usually nonessential, but creates a bigger picture for the reader. As nonessential information, it requires parentheticals to set the appositive apart from the rest of the sentence.

Sometimes the appositive is essential and the sentence would have no meaning without it, in which case, don’t use parentheticals.

Grammar Explanations is…

…an evolving list of the structural rules and principles that determines where words are placed in phrases or sentences as well as how the language is spoken. Sometimes I run across an example that helps explain better or another “also known as”. Heck, there’s always a better way to explain it, so if it makes quicker and/or better sense, I would appreciate suggestions and comments from anyone… Are there areas of grammar with which you struggle? If you’d like to track it, bookmark this page and consider sharing this Grammar Explanation with friends by tweeting it.

Appositive
Credit to: Purdue OWL
Definition: A noun or pronoun frequently modified/defined/identified by another noun or pronoun.

POST CONTENTS
Appositive Phrase
Appositives usually:

Appositive Phrase
Definition: The phrase usually follows the noun; sometimes it may precede the noun.

Rule: Nonessential phrases are set off with commas or some type of parenthetical.

Legend:

  1. Yellow indicates the nonessential appositive phrase

The best quilt in the show, a Baltimore Album wedding quilt, was stolen last night.

My favorite exercise, canoeing along a river, is too chilly to enjoy in the winter.

We saw the most incredible horses at the stock show — Tennessee Walkers.

Henry’s girlfriend, Anne, came along for the ride.

Well, Henry has only the one girlfriend.

Appositives are…
After the Noun Definition: The appositive comes AFTER the noun it explains.

Rule: Whether a comma is used to separate the appositive from the sentence depends upon if the information it provides is essential or not.

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Legend:

  1. Yellow indicates the nonessential appositive
  2. Green indicates the essential appositive
  3. Bold indicates the noun/pronoun

Your friend Bill is in trouble.

He has more than one friend so it is essential for the friend to be named.


My brother’s car, a sporty red convertible with bucket seats, is the envy of my friends.

Describing “my brother’s car” is nonessential information.


The chief surgeon, an expert in organ-transplant procedures, took her nephew on a hospital tour.

This sentence is about taking a relative on a tour; the surgeon being an expert is nonessential information.

Before the Noun Definition: The appositive comes BEFORE the noun it explains.

Rule: Use a comma to set off the appositive when it comes before the noun.

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Legend:

  1. Yellow indicates the nonessential appositive
  2. Bold indicates the noun/pronoun

A bold innovator, Wassily Kadinsky is known for his colorful abstract paintings.

The first state to ratify the U. S. Constitution, Delaware is rich in history.

A beautiful collie, Skip was my favorite dog.

Too General,
Unclear
Definition: The noun is TOO GENERAL and additional information is required to make it clear.

Rule: Needed information, the appositive, is essential and commas are not used.

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Legend:

  1. Green indicates the essential appositive
  2. Bold indicates the noun/pronoun

The popular US president John Kennedy was known for his eloquent and inspirational speeches.

Without “John Kennedy”, we wouldn’t be able to pinpoint which president was “The popular US president known for his eloquent and inspirational speeches.”


John Kennedy the popular US president was quite different from John Kennedy the unfaithful husband.

Both appositives are necessary otherwise we wouldn’t understand the sentence—it would just be John Kennedy was quite different from John Kennedy. We wouldn’t know what qualities of John Kennedy were being referred to without the appositive.

Complete,
Clear
Definition: The noun is CLEAR and COMPLETE without the appositive.

Rule: When the appositive contains nonessential information, the appositive must be encased in commas.

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Legend:

  1. Yellow indicates the nonessential appositive
  2. Bold indicates the noun/pronoun

John Kennedy, the popular US president, was known for his eloquent and inspirational speeches.

Without “the popular US president”, we’d still know that “John Kennedy was known for his eloquent and inspirational speeches”.


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