Writers Workshop: Writer Resources
Grammar Handbook: Appositives
Appositives are two words or word groups which mean the same thing and are placed together. Appositives identify or explain the nouns or pronouns which they modify:
- Our teacher, Professor Lamanna, loves grammar.
We can say that "Professor Lamanna" is an appositive or is in apposition to "our teacher." "Professor Lamanna" identifies or explains "teacher.'
An appositive phrase includes an appositive and its modifiers:
- My favorite place, the English building, is located on the Quad, a grassy square in the middle of the campus.
A restrictive appositive is necessary to maintain the meaning of the sentence and does not require commas. Usually, a restrictive appositive is a single word closely related to the preceding word. It "restricts" or narrows the meaning of the word it modifies:
- The musician Harry Connick will come to Champaign.
("Harry Connick" restricts the general term "musician.")
- My sister Mary has four dogs.
A nonrestrictive appositive may be omitted without changing the basic meaning of the sentence. A nonrestrictive appositive is separated by commas. Commas are always used when the word which the appositive modifies is a proper noun:
- Harry Connick, the musician, will come to Champaign.
("Musician" offers additional information about the specific name "Harry Connick")
- There are many parades for Mardi Gras, a religious festival celebrating the last day before Lent, in New Orleans, a city in Louisiana.
A dash or colon, as well as a comma, can be used to set off appositives:
- For the prisoner there was only one goal--escape.