AskDefine | Define appositive

Dictionary Definition

appositive adj : relating to or being in apposition; "an appositive noun" [syn: appositional]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. a word or phrase that is in apposition.


  1. of or being in apposition.

Extensive Definition

Apposition is a grammatical construction in which two elements, normally noun phrases, are placed side by side, with one element serving to define or modify the other. When this device is used, the two elements are said to be in apposition. For example in the phrase "my friend Alice" the name "Alice" is in apposition to "my friend".
More traditionally, appositions were called by their Latin name appositio, although the English form is now more commonly used. It is derived from Latin: ad (“near”) and positio (“placement”).
Apposition often results when the verbs (particularly verbs of being) in supporting clauses are eliminated to produce shorter descriptive phrases. This makes them often function as hyperbatons, or figures of disorder, because they can disrupt the flow of a sentence. For example in the phrase: "My wife, a nurse by training,...," it is necessary to pause before the parenthetical modification "a nurse by training."

Restrictive vs. non-restrictive

Apposition can either be restrictive, or non-restrictive, where the second element parenthetically modifies the first.
In a non-restrictive appositive, the second element parenthetically modifies the first without changing its scope. Non-restrictive appositives are not crucial to the meaning of the sentence. In a restrictive appositive, the second element limits or clarifies the foregoing one in some crucial way. For example in the phrase "my friend Alice," Alice specifies to which friend the speaker is referring and is therefore restrictive. On the other hand, in the above example: "my wife, a nurse by training,...," the parenthetical "a nurse by training" does not narrow down the subject, but rather provides additional information about the first element, namely, "my wife." While a non-restrictive appositive must be preceded or set off by commas, a restrictive appositive is not set off by commas.
Not all restrictive clauses are appositives. For example, Alice in "Bill's friend, Alice,…" is an appositive noun phrase; Alice in "Bill's friend, whose name is Alice,…" is not an appositive but, rather, a restrictive clause. The main difference between the two is that the second explicitly states what an apposition would omit: the statement that the friend in question is Alice.
The same words can change from restrictive to non-restrictive (or vice versa) depending on the speaker and context. Consider the phrase "my brother Nathan." If the speaker has more than one brother, the name Nathan is restrictive as it clarifies which brother. However, if the speaker has only one brother, then the brother's name is parenthetical and the correct way to write it is: "my brother, Nathan,...."


In the following examples, the appositive phrases are offset in italics:
  • Arizona senator Barry Goldwater won the Republican nomination.
  • I went to the movie with my friend Alice.
  • John and Bob, both friends of mine, are starting a band.
  • An appositive, a grammatically incomplete noun phrase, is sometimes set off by commas, a reader-friendly invention.
  • Alexander the Great, the Macedonian conqueror of Persia, was one of the most successful military commanders of the ancient world.
  • The singer Dean Martin will be performing at the Sands Hotel.


appositive in Czech: Přístavek
appositive in German: Apposition
appositive in Spanish: Aposición
appositive in Esperanto: Apozicio
appositive in French: Apposition
appositive in Icelandic: Viðurlag
appositive in Hebrew: תמורה (תחביר)
appositive in Hungarian: Értelmező (nyelvészet)
appositive in Slovak: Prístavok
appositive in Finnish: Appositio
appositive in Tagalog: Apposition
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