What is an Appositive? Definition, Examples of Appositive Phrases

Appositive definition: An appositive is a noun or pronoun that further identifies or explains another noun or pronoun in the sentence. An appositive is set apart with specific punctuation.

What is an Appositive?

What does appositive mean? An appositive is a noun or pronoun. It further identifies or explains another noun or pronoun in a sentence.

Almost always an appositive interrupts the flow of a sentence and is therefore set apart with specific punctuation. Appositives are set apart with commons.

Since appositives add additional information to a sentence, most appositives can be completely removed from the sentence and the sentence will still be grammatically correct.

Appositive Examples:

  • My friend, Shari, plays tennis.

what is a appositiveHere, the “base” sentence is: My friend plays tennis. However, the appositive, “Shari,” is added to further identify “my friend.”

“Shari” is not necessary information to the sentence.

The appositive makes writing more concise and adds additional information to make the sentence more specific.

  • Billy, an ill-tempered child, threw a tantrum at the store.

Similar to the previous example, “an ill-tempered child” is not necessary information to the sentence. It adds extra information, making it more specific.

  • In an email to staff members, Peter V. Neffenger, the T.S.A. administrator, announced a series of changes that included the removal of Kelly Hoggan, who had been the assistant administrator for the Office of Security Operations since 2013. –The New York Times

In this example, “the T.S.A. administrator” is an appositive noun renaming and adding additional information to Peter V. Neffenger.

Appositives Can Be Nouns, Noun Phrases, or Noun Clauses

what is a appositive phraseAppositives always further identify a noun or pronoun in the sentence.

And an appositive can be more than just a single noun. Appositives can be a single word or a multiple-word noun phrase.

Example of a One-Word Appositive:

  • My friend, Shari, plays tennis.

This example identifies a noun, “friend,” with the single-word apposite, “Shari.”

Example of Noun Phrase Appositive:

  • Shari, the girl who plays tennis, is my friend.

In this example, the noun phrase, “the girl who plays tennis,” is the appositive. The appositive further explains the subject, Shari.

Appositive Phrases: What is an Appositive Phrase?

Appositive phrase definition: An appositive phrase is simply an appositive and its modifiers.

Appositive Phrase Examples:

  • Lebron James, a basketball player for the Cleveland Cavaliers, is in the NBA Finals.
  • Daisy, the dog that lives next door, barks at the mailman.

In this first example, “a basketball player” is the appositive noun referring back to Lebron James. This appositive noun along with its modifiers “for the Cleveland Cavaliers” forms an appositive phrase.

The second example is similar. “The dog” is the appositive noun. This appositive noun along with the modifiers “that lives next door” forms an appositive phrase.

Types of Appositive Phrases: Restrictive vs. Non-restrictive

what is appositive sentenceMost appositives and appositive phrases are non-restrictive. That is, they can be removed from the sentence and the sentence will still be grammatically correct. The previous examples are all non-restrictive.

A restrictive appositive is one that cannot be removed from the sentence. It often looks like a non-restrictive appositive but it does not have any punctuation to set it apart.

Let’s look at an example to further explain this concept.

Appositive Example:

  • My friend, Shari, plays tennis.
  • My friend Shari plays tennis.

The first example is non-restrictive and can be removed from the sentence without changing the meaning of the sentence.

The first example also implies that I have more than one friend. The appositive identifies the specific friend to whom I am referring.

The second example is restrictive and cannot be removed from the sentence without changing the meaning of the sentence.

The second example implies that I only have one friend and that her name is Shari. I do not need to specify which friend with an appositive because she is the only person to whom I am referring.

How to Punctuate an Appositive

define appositive phraseComma rules with appositives: In most cases, commas punctuate non-restrictive appositives. The appositive may be placed anywhere in a sentence so long as it directly follows the noun it identifies.

Examples of appositives that:

  • Begin a sentence
    • Shari, my friend, plays tennis.
      • “my friend” is the appositive, identifying the noun, “Shari,” punctuated with commas
    • Interrupt a sentence
      • I have a friend, Shari, who plays tennis.
        • “Shari” is the appositive, identifying the noun, “a friend” punctuated with commas
      • End a sentence
        • My friend plays tennis, a very technical sport
          • “a very technical sport” is the appositive, identifying the noun, “tennis,” punctuated with commas

Appositives can also be punctuated with dashes. For example, let’s reconsider one of our above examples.

  • Shari—my friend—plays tennis.

In this sentence, a dash punctuates the appositive phrase.

  • That official said investigators have been scrutinizing McAuliffe’s finances — including personal bank records, tax returns and public disclosure forms that date back many years — and are interested in foreign sources of income. –The Washington Post

In this Washington Post example, the appositive phrase is punctuated by dashes.

Appositives Can Be Overused

examples of appositives exampleWhen a sentence contains too many appositives, the meaning of the sentence can become confusing and the sentence itself difficult to read. Furthermore, overuse of appositives can lead to confusion regarding which noun an appositive is renaming.

Example with too many appositives:

  • I, Mark, have a friend, Shari, who plays tennis, a very technical sport, every weekend, Saturday and Sunday.

Here, the overuse of appositives negatively interrupts the flow of the sentence. Appositives should add content to a sentence to make the writing more concise but not in such a way that they create confusing syntax. In this case the writer should break up this information to multiple sentences.

Corrected example:

  • I have a friend, Shari, who plays tennis, a very technical sport. She plays every Saturday and Sunday.

Summary: What are Appositives?

Define appositive: the definition of appositive is a noun or noun phrase that renames another noun or pronoun in the sentence.

Appositives are punctuated with commas and add additional information to make writing more effective and more concise.