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How to Use Appositives


Appositives are descriptive words or phrases modifying a noun or pronoun in a complete sentence.

The following examples feature sentences containing appositives:

The insect, a large, ugly spider, is climbing up the wall.

appositive: a large, ugly spider

During lunch, John, the quietest diner at our table, said he wasn’t feeling well.

appositive: the quietest diner at our table

My friend Mary caught the flu.

appositive: Mary

Appositives – What are They?

Appositives are often used in complete sentences to make the writing more fluid or read more smoothly. They modify or rename the noun or noun phrase before them. Appositives, then, are nouns or noun phrases themselves. When this type of construction is used in writing, the appositive and the noun or noun phrase that it modifies are said to be in apposition. Therefore, in the phrase, “My sister Jane” – Jane is in apposition to “My sister.” The meaning of appositives is: two things placed side-by-side.

To get a better grasp on how appositives are used in complete sentence, it is important to understand the basic structure of a complete sentence. A sentence, in its complete form, always consists of a subject and a predicate. The predicate is the portion of a sentence after the subject. For example, in the sentence "The weather is hot today.", the portion of the subject "is hot today" is the predicate.

Kinds of Appositives – When to Use Commas

Appositives can either be restrictive or non-restrictive. Non-restrictive appositives are always separated by commas as they only add information to a sentence and are not essential to the sentence’s meaning. On the other hand, restrictive appositions do not require commas as they are needed to clarify the nouns or noun phrases set in front of them.

Examples of Non-Restrictive Appositives

The following sentence is an example of a non-restrictive appositive:

Jane, the new shelter manager, enjoyed the Chinese food.

Non-restrictive appositive: the new shelter manager

Non-restrictive appositives can also appear at the end of a sentence as in the following example:

Elated and happy, everyone cheered John, a standout ballplayer.

Non restrictive appositive: a standout ballplayer

As you can see, from the above examples, the non-restrictive appositives only provide additional information. In other words, the sentences can still be considered complete without them.

Examples of Restrictive Appositives

In cases where the appositive is necessary in supporting the meaning of the noun or noun phrase before it, then no commas are required. Such an appositive is referred to as a restrictive appositive. The following sentences demonstrate the use of a restrictive appositive.

My barber Tom cut my hair too short.

Appositive: Tom

Our neighbor Bill was named association president.

Appositive: Bill

As you can see, the above appositives clarify the information in the sentences to make them complete. Therefore, they are restrictive examples of appositives.




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