Definition and Examples of Appositives in English

Definition and Examples of Appositives in English

In English grammar, an appositive is a noun, noun phrase, or series of nouns placed next to another word or phrase to identify or rename it. The word "appositive" comes from the Latin for "to put near." Nonrestrictive appositives are usually set off by commas, parentheses, or dashes. An appositive may be introduced by a word or phrase such as namely, for example, or that is.

Appositive Exercises

Examples of Appositives

  • "My father, a fat, funny man with beautiful eyes and a subversive wit, is trying to decide which of his eight children he will take with him to the county fair." (Alice Walker, "Beauty: When the Other Dancer Is the Self." In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens. Harcourt Brace, 1983)
  • "The hangman, a grey-haired convict in the white uniform of the prison, was waiting beside his machine."(George Orwell, "A Hanging," 1931)
  • "The Otis Elevator Company, the world's oldest and biggest elevator manufacturer, claims that its products carry the equivalent of the world's population every five days." (Nick Paumgarten, "Up and Then Down." The New Yorker, Apr. 21, 2008)
  • "Christmas Eve afternoon we scrape together a nickel and go to the butcher's to buy Queenie's traditional gift, a good gnawable beef bone." (Truman Capote, "A Christmas Memory." Mademoiselle, December 1956)
  • "Television was left on, a running tap, from morning till night." (Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, 1932)
  • "Though her cheeks were high-colored and her teeth strong and yellow, she looked like a mechanical woman, a machine with flashing, glassy circles for eyes." (Kate Simon, Bronx Primitive, 1982)
  • "I have had the great honor to have played with these great veteran ballplayers on my left-Murderers Row, our championship team of 1927. I have had the further honor of living with and playing with these men on my right-the Bronx Bombers, the Yankees of today." (Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig, The Pride of the Yankees, 1942)
  • "The essence of loneliness is that one both remembers and hopes, though in vain, in the midst of one's dissolution. Plain nothingness compared to it is a comfort, a kind of hibernation, a tundra of arctic whiteness that negates feeling and want." (Alexander Theroux, in "An Interview with Alexander Theroux." Review of Contemporary Fiction, Spring 1991)
  • "The Koeberg Nuclear Power Station, Africa's only nuclear power plant, was inaugurated in 1984 by the apartheid regime and is the major source of electricity for the Western Cape's 4.5 million population." (Joshua Hammer, "Inside Cape Town." Smithsonian, April 2008)
  • "The Spectator. Champagne for the brain." (ad slogan for The Spectator magazine)
  • "Xerox. The Document Company." (slogan of Xerox Corporation)
  • "The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call 'out there.'" (Truman Capote, In Cold Blood. Random House, 1966)
  • "They passed the last house, a small grey house set in the open field. Yellow gullies ran across the field, bald plateaus of snow-smeared sod between gully and gully." (Robert Penn Warren, "Christmas Gift," 1938)
  • "Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, inventor of the cornflake and peanut butter, not to mention caramel-cereal coffee, Bromose, Nuttolene, and some seventy-five other gastronomically correct foods, paused to level his gaze on the heavyset women in front of him." (T. Coraghassen Boyle, The Road to Wellville. Viking, 1993)
  • "Dad's shop was a messy disaster area, a labyrinth of lathes… My domain was the cramped, cold space known as the music room. It was also a messy disaster area, an obstacle course of musical instruments-piano, trumpet, baritone horn, valve trombone, various percussion doodads (bells!), and recorders." (Sarah Vowell, "Shooting Dad." Take the Cannoli: Stories from the New World. Simon & Schuster, 2000)
  • "As I stood on the platform beneath another, fairly recent London civility-namely an electronic board announcing that the next train to Hainault would be arriving in four minutes-I turned my attention to the greatest of all civilities: the London Underground Map. What a piece of perfection it is, created in 1931 by a forgotten hero named Harry Beck, an out-of-work draftsman who realized that when you are underground it doesn't actually matter where you are." (Bill Bryson, Notes From a Small Island. Doubleday, 1995)
  • "The sky was sunless and grey, there was snow in the air, buoyant motes, play things that seethed and floated like the toy flakes inside a crystal." (Truman Capote, "The Muses Are Heard")
  • "Nothing contributes so much to tranquilize the mind as a steady purpose-a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye." (Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, letter I in Frankenstein, 1818)
  • "And then there was that feeling one gets in a ride to a cemetery trailing a body in a coffin-an impatience with the dead, a longing to be back home where one could get on with the illusion that not death but daily life is the permanent condition." (E.L. Doctorow, Homer & Langley. Random House, 2009)

Observations on Appositives

  • "The appositive is a substantive or nominal set off by commas from the word which it identifies. We say that the appositive is used in apposition with the other word. Ex: The king, my brother, has been murdered. Ex: we spotted Tom Hanks, the movie star, at the cafe yesterday.
  • In the first example, the noun brother is used in apposition with the subject king. The appositive renames or describes the subject king by specifying which king the sentence is about. In the second example, the noun star is used in apposition with the proper noun Tom Hanks, a direct object. The appositive clarifies the proper name, telling us which Tom Hanks was seen. For all we know, the writer could have a cousin named Tom Hanks. Remember that the appositive and the noun to which it refers always share the same four properties-gender, number, person, and case-since they both name the same entity." (Michael Strumpf and Auriel Douglas, The Grammar Bible. Owl Books, 2004)

Punctuating Restrictive and Nonrestrictive Appositives

  • "'Ben's brother Bob helped him build the house.' If Ben has more than one brother, the name Bob would be necessary to identify which brother is being discussed-in other words, to restrict the meaning of the word brother. If Ben has only one brother, the name Bob would be additional information not essential to the meaning of the sentence; Bob would be a nonrestrictive appositive. Nonrestrictive appositives are always set off by punctuation. Since no punctuation surrounds the appositive Bob in this example, we know that Bob is a restrictive appositive (and that Ben has more than one brother)." (Gary Lutz and Diane Stevenson, The Writer's Digest Grammar Desk Reference. F+W Publications, 2005)