Time For Appositive Action!

The AcropolisHappy New Year, dear readers! Here’s hoping your 2013 is filled with fabulous phrases, magnificent morphology and exhilarating etymology.

What’s better than starting the New Year with positive thinking? Well, talking about appositives, of course.

So, what exactly is an appositive? Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as “of, relating to, or standing in grammatical apposition.” Not particularly helpful if you don’t happen to know the definition of apposition.

In grammar, an appositive is a noun or noun phrase that directly follows another noun or noun phrase and provides a definition of, or further identifies, the first one. Here’s an example:

  • It’s not common knowledge but Steven, the cyclops, is very skilled in the art of needlepoint.

There are two categories of appositives: restrictive and non-restrictive.

Non-restrictive appositives are bordered by commas and aren’t integral to the sentence. For example:

  • Medusa, the gorgon, didn’t have a lot of luck with relationships.
    (In this sentence the gorgon adds more detail about Medusa but is not necessary to identify her.)

On the other hand, restrictive appositives contain crucial information about the noun or noun phrase to which they refer. If a restrictive appositive is removed from a sentence it obscures the identity of the noun or noun phrase it describes. For example:

  • Achilles owed much of his success to the centaur Chiron, who had taken him on as a disciple and fed him a succulent mixture of lion innards and she-wolf marrow.
    (In this sentence Chiron is necessary because there were many centaurs in ancient Greece but only one that trained Achilles.)

And that is positively all you need to know about appositives.


Image credit: © DocAcesRock / Photoxpress.com

4 thoughts on “Time For Appositive Action!

    1. Thanks for the comment Paula! My goal is to make grammar more accessible and entertaining for people. Too many of us bear the scars from boring and/or negative grammar experiences.

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