English Appositives


An appositive is a noun or noun phrase that follows another noun or pronoun and explains it.

Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All English Tenses

Click Here to get the English Short Stories Book and Workbook



Examples:

Sarah, Mrs. Jones, a very thin man.


Example sentences (the appositive is in bold):

  • My best friend, Sarah, is moving in with me.
  • Her first teacher, Mrs. Jones, was a strict person.
  • The CEO, a very smart man, decided to sell the company.

Note that you could also say (the appositive is in bold):

  • Sarah, my best friend, is moving in with me.
  • Mrs. Jones, her first teacher, was a strict person.
  • A very smart man, the CEO, decided to sell the company.

Additional appositive examples (the appositive is in bold):
  • During the contest, Diana, the best one, tripped and fell.
  • My friends, the noisiest gang you can think of, showed up at my door.
  • New York, one of the biggest cities on Earth, is located on the East coast.
  • Lisa, my five-year-old daughter, is eating dinner in the kitchen.
  • Pitsi, your little cat, is not so little any more.
English Appositives

The appositive (also called an appositive phrase, if longer than a single word) has several punctuation rules.


English appositive punctuation

Essential appositive

An essential appositive gives us information that is necessary to the meaning of the sentence. It wouldn't be complete without it.

In such cases, do not use commas before and after the appositive.

Examples:
  • The successful singer Michael Jackson died in 2008.

    The same sentence without the appositive would be:
    The successful singer died in 2008.

    This sentence alone, without any additional explanation, may be considered incomplete in meaning (too general). We can't know who that person is.

    Therefore, the appositive is an essential part of the sentence, and we don't put commas around it.

  • I was watching my favorite movie Gone with the Wind.

    The same sentence without the appositive would be:
    I was watching my favorite movie.

    This sentence alone, without any additional explanation, may be considered incomplete in meaning (too general). We can't know which movie it is.

    Therefore, the appositive is an essential part of the sentence, and we don't put a comma before it.


Non-essential appositive

By "non-essential" appositive we mean an appositive that is not completely necessary. The sentence will be understood without it.

In such cases, use commas before and after the appositive.

Examples:
  • Michael Jackson, the successful singer, died in 2008.

    The same sentence without the appositive would be:
    Michael Jackson died in 2008.

    This sentence alone, without any additional explanation, is quite clear. We know who we are talking about.

    Therefore, the appositive is not an essential part of the sentence, so we should put commas around it.

  • I was watching Gone with the Wind, my favorite movie.

    The same sentence without the appositive would be:
    I was watching Gone with the Wind.

    This sentence alone, without any additional explanation, is quite clear. We know which movie we are talking about.

    Therefore, the appositive is not an essential part of the sentence, so we should put a comma before it.

Get Vocabulary, Grammar and Teaching Tips, Site Updates and Special Offers Directly to Your Mailbox

Join now and get a special bonus:

First 2 chapters of the English Short Stories Book and Workbook.

Are you a teacher or a student?

* We respect your email privacy and you can unsubscribe at any time.