English Grammar

Appositives

by Eugene R. Moutoux

1. An appositive is a word, phrase or clause that identifies or explains another word or other words in the same sentence. Appositives are said to be in apposition with the words they identify or explain. Most appositives are nouns in apposition with preceding nouns; however, they can also be pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, phrases, clauses, and they occasionally precede the word or words with which they are in apposition. Here are examples of various kinds of appositives:

- We planned to travel (fly) to Seattle. (a verb in apposition with a verb)

- These flowers are for my best friend, you. (a personal pronoun in apposition with a noun)

- She regrets the disappearance of many feral (wild) animals. (an adjective in apposition with an adjective)

- He removed the books clandestinely (secretly). (an adverb in apposition with an adverb)

- We live on (beside) a river. (a preposition in apposition with a preposition)

- The office workers were told to be less officious (to mind their own business). (an infinitive phrase in apposition with an infinitive phrase)

- On Friday evenings we go out to eat (the only excitement of the week), and then we work all weekend. (a noun phrase in apposition with a clause)

 

2. In English, when a proper name is in apposition with a possessive noun, only the proper name has a possessive ending, e.g., my friend Melvinís car.

One distinguishes restrictive (necessary for identification) and nonrestrictive (unnecessary for identification) appositives:

- restrictive: My cousin Alan broke his arm. (noun in apposition with a noun)

- nonrestrictive: My father, a skiing instructor, broke his arm. (noun in apposition with a noun)

 

3. The pronouns myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, and themselves are both reflexive and intensifying. As intensifying pronouns, they are appositives.

- The author herself will be there to sign copies of her new book. (an intensifying pronoun in apposition with a noun)

- They themselves will be there. (an intensifying pronoun in apposition with a pronoun)

* * * * *

4. An appositive that is not necessary for sufficient identification (a nonrestrictive appositive) is set off by a comma or commas.

- She invited her daughterís fiancťe, Fred Morris, for dinner.

- Have you read "The Grapes of Wrath," a novel by John Steinbeck?

- He couldnít find his favorite food, salmon, on the menu.

- The schoolís principal, Mr. Williams, has removed "The Beloved" from the approved reading list.

 

5. An appositive that is necessary for sufficient identification (a restrictive appositive) is not set off by commas.

- My friend Wes likes water skiing.

- Iím looking for a present for my sister Ellen. (The speaker has more than one sister.)

- Claire likes the color red.

- Bruce will introduce the famous architect Michael Graves.

 

6. A colon is sometimes used to introduce lists. Is it used correctly in the following sentence?

- Some of their favorite farm animals are: horses, cows, goats, and geese.

The answer is an emphatic no. Unless you are introducing one or more clauses, a colon should not be used after forms of the verb be (am, is, are, was, were, etc.), for example, namely, and that is. Letís stay with the farm-animal sentence. Here are some of the ways in which it could be successfully rewritten:

- Some of their favorite farm animals are horses, cows, goats, and geese.

- Some of their favorite farm animals are these: horses, cows, goats, and geese.

- Among farm animals, they favor horses, cows, goats, and geese.

- Among farm animals, they favor these four: horses, cows, goats, and geese.

 

7. This sentence uses for example followed by a list:

- At this website, you will be introduced to exciting elements of grammar, for example, adverbial objectives, objective complements, infinitive phrases, and noun clauses. (Notice that a comma, not a colon, is used after for example.)

If we omit for example, we can use a colon, as follows:

- In this book, you will be introduced to exciting elements of grammar: adverbial objectives, objective complements, infinitive phrases, and noun clauses, among others.

- from the teacher's enlarged edition of my book Diagramming Step by Step: One Hundred and Fifty-one Steps to Diagramming Excellence

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