Connect
To Top

The Appositive in English Grammar

The Appositive in English Grammar

Appositives are words, phrases, and clauses that supports another word, phrase, or clause by describing or modifying the other word, phrase, or clause. Although nouns and noun phrases most frequently function as appositive in sentences, three grammatical forms can perform the grammatical function of appositive in the English language. The three grammatical forms that can function as the appositive are:

  • Noun phrases
  • Noun clauses
  • Verb phrases

The following sections define and exemplify the four grammatical forms that can function as the appositive in English grammar.

Noun Phrases as Appositives

The first grammatical form that performs the grammatical function of appositive is the noun phrase. Noun phrases are defined as phrases that consist of a noun or pronoun plus any modifiers, complements, and determiners. For example, the following the following italicized noun phrases function as appositives:

  • My cousin Leroy wrote a best-selling novel. (noun)
  • The first state to ratify the Constitution, Delaware, is rich in history. (noun)
  • That man, him, stole my wallet. (pronoun)
  • A man brought a package for the team leader, you. (pronoun)
  • The popular American president John Kennedy was known for his eloquent speeches. (noun phrase)
  • That book, the green one with the torn cover, was donated by a professor. (noun phrase)

Noun phrases are the most frequent grammatical form that function as the appositive in the English language.

Noun Clauses as Appositives

The second grammatical form that can perform the grammatical function of appositive is the noun clause. Noun clauses are defined as subordinate clauses that consist of a subordinating conjunction followed by a clause and that performs a nominal function. For example, the following italicized noun clauses function as appositives:

  • The problem, that you did not pick up the packages, delays the entire production schedule.
  • I think the solution, that he hired a replacement, was the best course of action at the time.
  • The answer from the company, that we buy a new table, angers me.
  • My decision, for you to leave the day after us, stands.
  • His choice, for her to bring the kids the week after, seems logical.
  • Your idea, for Olive to make more pickles, appears ill-conceived.

Verb Phrases as Appositives

The third grammatical form that can perform the grammatical function of subject is the verb phrase in the form of present participles and infinitives. Verb phrases are defined as phrases that consist of a verb plus any modifiers, complements, particles, infinitive markers, or other verbs. For example, the following italicized verb phrases function as subjects:

  • My favorite activity, reading books, is something that I need to do more often. (present participle)
  • I heard that we share a hobby, gardening. (present participle)
  • Her to-do list, washing the windows and emptying the gutters, may never get finished. (present participle)
  • Your chores, putting away the dishes and the clean clothes, must be finished by dinner. (present participle)
  • My idea of a good time, to sit and ponder life, is not enjoyed by everyone. (infinitive)
  • He is unhappy with his assigned tasks, to clean the shelves and organize the books. (infinitive)

Traditional grammars typically refer to present participles performing nominal functions such as the appositive as gerunds.

An appositive is a word, phrase, or clause that supports another word, phrase, or clause by describing or modifying the other word, phrase, or clause. The three grammatical forms that can function as the appositive in the English language are noun phrases, noun clauses, and verb phrases.

Summary

Appositives are words, phrases, and clauses that supports another word, phrase, or clause by describing or modifying the other word, phrase, or clause.

Appositive is a grammatical function.

The grammatical forms that can function as the appositive in English grammar are noun phrases including pronouns, noun clauses, and verb phrases.

References

Brinton, Laurel J. & Donna M. Brinton. 2010. The linguistic structure of Modern English, 2nd edn. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Hopper, Paul J. 1999. A short course in grammar. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Huddleston, Rodney. Introduction to the Grammar of English. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1984.

More in Grammatical Function