What Is an Appositive?

An appositive is a noun phrase that renames another noun phrase in order to provide more clarity or specificity. An appositive can occur anywhere; they do not have to be the subject of the sentence. Here are two examples:

  • My son’s pediatrician, Dr. Waters, has an office close to the elementary school.
  • I fell in love with a Vermeer painting, Girl Interrupted at Her Music, when I first saw it at New York City’s Frick Museum.

The two noun phrases, both the one that initially names the thing and the one that does the renaming, stand in apposition to each other. They lend richness and substance to writing, and in first person narrative, they can help to determine

How Do You Identify Appositive in Writing?

Appositives are nonrestrictive clauses, set off from the main body of the sentence with commas on either side. It’s also correct to set an appositive off from the main body of the sentence using dashes.

Examples of Appositive

Appositive Example 1. That girl, the one who lives two doors down, plays music all hours of the day and night.

Appositive Example 2. Two brothers, Phineas and Ferb, create implausible inventions that annoy Candice, their older sister, in the television cartoon of the same name.

Appositive Example 3. Every year or so, I like to reread my favorite novel, Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.

Appositive Example 4. Those stripes of light on the floor — a pattern both enchanting and intrusive —  are formed by afternoon sun falling through partially closed Venetian blinds.

Appositive Example 5. Death, that terrible messenger, comes like a thief in the night.


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