1. What is an Appositive Phrase?
An appositive is a noun or noun phrase (appositive phrase) that gives another name to the noun right next to it. It adds descriptive words about a specific thing (the noun), which helps make a sentence more detailed; or, it adds essential information to make the sentence’s meaning clear.
2. Examples of an Appositive Phrase
An appositive noun or phrase can come before or after the main noun. It can be at the beginning, middle, or end of a sentence, as long as it is right next to the noun it describes. In the examples, appositives are red, and nouns are green.
- The smallest state in the US, Rhode Island is in the northeast.
- The dog, a beagle, is great at following a scent.
- The apartment had bugs, big brown cockroaches!
As you can see, the appositives add information about the nouns. For instance, “a beagle” describes the type of dog, while “a cockroach” describes the bug in the cereal.
3. Types of Appositive Phrases
Apposite phrases follow two forms: a noun followed by apposite phrase, or appositive phrase followed by a noun. You can identify an appositive phrase because it is what adds details to the main noun, so, depending on the sentence’s style, sometimes it comes before, and sometimes it comes after.
a. Noun followed by an Appositive
The most common way to use an appositive phrase is by putting it after a noun, like this:
- Sparky, the dog who loved popcorn, was well known around the neighborhood.
- The dog, who loved popcorn, could often be spotted at the fair.
- The dog named Sparky was loved by everyone.
- At the fair, we saw Sparky, the friendly neighborhood dog.
Even though it might add important information, an appositive phrase shouldn’t affect a sentence’s grammar. So, a sentence should make sense without it:
Sparky was well known around the neighborhood.
You can see that though the sentence is less detailed, it is still grammatically correct!
b. Appositive followed by a Noun
Though not as common as the examples above, sometimes appositive phrases come before the noun, like this:
- Named Sparky, the dog was well known around the neighborhood.
- A lover of popcorn, Sparky was often spotted at the fair.
- The neighborhood’s favorite dog, Sparky was friendly to everyone.
Here, the appositive phrase describes the noun that follows it. Again, if you remove the appositive phrase, the sentences still make sense, like this:
The dog was well known around the neighborhood.
4. How to Avoid Mistakes
Appositive phrases are easy to spot and pretty simple to use. But, there are still common mistakes! Here are some things to remember:
- An appositive phrase is always right next to the noun it describes.
- Appositive phrases can come at the beginning, middle, or end of a sentence.
- Most times an appositive phrase comes after its noun, but sometimes it comes before.
- An appositive phrase does not have a subject and predicate, therefore, it is not a complete sentence.
What’s more, when using an appositive phrase, people sometimes make mistakes with their commas. Sometimes commas are absolutely necessary, while sometimes you don’t need one at all.
- If the appositive phrase provides crucial information to a sentence, then it isn’t necessary to put a comma. Like this:
The former First Lady Barbara Bush could become the oldest living First Lady.
Without the appositive, this sentence would be “The former First Lady could become the oldest living First Lady”—we wouldn’t know who the First Lady was. Since “Barbara Bush” is necessary information, we don’t need commas.
- If an appositive phrase isn’t crucial in a sentence, then you do need comma(s). Often the appositive phrase is inside two commas, like this:
Barbara Bush, the former First Lady, could become the oldest living First Lady.
Here, the appositive phrase is “former First Lady,” because it adds information about Barbara Bush. In this situation, it doesn’t give essential information. We could take away the appositive phrase, and it still makes sense:
Barbara Bush could become the oldest living First Lady.